Deferred gratification', 'Wildcards' and 'Packaging': innovative teaching strategies for first year product design students
Withell, AJ; Charlton, NB
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This paper describes a strategic approach to teaching design that addresses the difficulties of building and maintaining motivation and engagement in first year product/industrial design students, and creating the learning context in which they can come to terms with the ‘idea’ of the design process. The paper critically considers the observations and experiences of the authors during the co-delivery of the first-year studio course of the Bachelor of Product Design at Unitec, New Zealand. The success of the strategy is illustrated with reference to improving student work and learning outcomes. Student perceptions are used to help interpret these practical examples of learning, with reference to broader educational approaches. Product/industrial design students require a variety of approaches and teaching interventions that are particular to their interests, concerns and perceptions of self. Innovative strategies are required to ensure that a meaningful engagement with design process is achieved. The challenge for first year studio lecturers is to devise teaching methods that make palatable the need to accept ‘deferred gratification’ in terms of hard design outcomes, via a rich and engaging, but fundamental learning process. A number of teaching methods are presented that engage the principles of experiential and situational learning and that introduce students to a number of practical skills and conceptual insights. The delivery and structure of the studio programme is further underpinned by reflective learning practices and the creation of an environment conductive to an effective community of learning/practice. Through this approach, students are asked to consider the immediate value of learning self-awareness, and to see ‘learning’ as an important long term professional competency. Given New Zealand’s particular limitations regarding large scale manufacturing, the emphasis on independent but collaborative, transferable thinking skills is particularly important. The process is in this case far more significant as a learning outcome, as it equips students to be involved in a wide range of design related fields, but as a ‘non-tangible’ outcome is considerably more difficult to teach to students with a hands-on orientation.