How can we help students work in more meaningful ways?

Traditional educational methodology would structure student assignments to be carried out in studio, by the student as a sole practitioner, with the oversight of a professor or critic. The new paradigm fully integrates the diverse ecology of principles of sustainable thinking and goes beyond this to employ a co-generative, experiential, and cross-disciplinary approach.

Co-generative Design work should be co-generated amongst stakeholders at all levels: students, faculty, administration, the school community, end-users, and the design community.

Experiential Where in the past design courses protect their traditional classroom boundaries, the next generation of design education welcomes the disturbances from external forces. Classroom walls must become permeable, and design challenges must engage real-world systems. The ’doing’ in design must encompass a broader field of interaction, and collaboration must be a fundamental attribute of any meaning­ful design challenge.

Cross-disciplinary Collaboration that occurs across disciplines must no longer be an exception to the rule as much as a core component of a new design pedagogy. Designers do not need to master the other discipline’s materials as a practitioner of that discipline would, but instead apply that discipline’s knowledge to their own design work. An interdisciplinary experience shifts the entire curricular structure toward deeper and more meaningful learning opportunities.

Mindsets

You are responsible for the consequences

Considering intention and ethics

As part of the design process, challenge students to consider and articulate various potential consequences of their work, including an ethical analysis of the designer’s intentions and the design’s consequences. Ignite subjective passions amongst students through meaningful interactions with broader ethical considerations in lectures and reading assignments.

Stop and think

Supporting the critical role of reflection in gathering new insight

Reflection provides context for new insights and future actions. Ongoing introspection and discussion leads to richer critique where cultural, social, and aesthetic assumptions are challenged. By embracing a methodology of deep, critical reflection to cycle throughout the design process, designers will cultivate an ability to create holistic thinking and interventions.

Challenge assumptions

Encouraging active engagement through design iterations

Active engagement relies on needs-solving rather than problem-finding. Needs are supported by primary research, field research, and empathic interactions with real people, rather than depending on what students or faculty perceive as needs. These opportunities for gathering new insights have deep and variant feedback loops, which should be duly recorded, acknowledged, and incorporated into design iterations. The iterative and responsive quality of the design process stimulates ongoing exchanges between stakeholders, and encourages co-creation at all levels. This mindset requires that projects be adaptable to real world dynamics in structure, processes, and assessments.

Value outcomes and process

Supporting experimentation on the foundation of process

Emphasize the importance of articulating process than merely outcomes in portfolios. Designers often begin a project with an understanding of the broader picture but through the phases of development, that context is lost. Whether intentionally (as a means of simplifying the process) or unintentionally (resorting to ‘logical’ norms of problem-solving hierarchies) marginalized, those elements are often the ones that add the impact of sustainability to the design.

Owning the learning

Empowering leadership through fluid authority

Empower students to partake as co-creators of the process (peer critique, community engagement, defining metrics for success). Those students have a stronger sense of ownership, resulting in a personal connection to the work. As part of the co-creation, encourage student-centered learning processes such as peer-to-peer learning, and student mentorship programs. When students engage with a project that has personal meaning, they will begin to understand, articulate, and invest in the shared experience and meaning of sustainability.

Don’t be afraid to measure

Understanding the importance of checking, instead of check-listing

At the beginning of the design challenge, articulate achievable criteria for success, and be diligent about measuring project outcomes and processes. These criteria can be qualitative and quantitative. The purpose of measurement is to gather insight, not to declare success or failure.

Examples

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