Within my courses, I construct environments that cultivate curiosity, allow room for failure, encourage empathy, and celebrate diversity.
To produce such a space, I construct lessons plans and projects that allow students to make significant choices that impact the shape of their work. As students gain greater facility, the work they are assigned becomes increasingly open. With open frameworks, arriving at a result with confidence requires that students develop initial ideas, follow their curiosity, and engage in research that supports their work.
While engaged in open processes, students often run into dead ends or find that the brilliant idea they first had simply isn’t going to work as thought. In these micro-failures, I step alongside them to help offer guidance as they learn to adapt, revise or redirect their work in order to learn and grow from failure. Failure is never seen or talked about as weakness and is instead celebrated along the way as it shows that students are taking risks and learning. For many students, the aim is to fail as quickly as possible on each project in order to more readily arrive at a strong result by the end of each assignment.
The frequency of failure within open projects cultivates a certain level of humility and leads to students bonding empathetically with one another. As students struggle, I partner them together to develop new ideas or revisions, helping them learn to stop, look, and listen when their internal processes fail them. Frequent, in process critiques are also offered in order to get formative feedback from their peers that in turn influences end results.
Ultimately, the flexibility offered in my classroom allows a wide range of final outcomes for any assignment, which allows students greater ownership of their work and significantly more diverse results than are typical of the average design assignment.
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Beyond the open structures I employ, every course I teach seeks to balance at least three elements:
- Technical Exploration: where the student focuses on developing skills, researching media, experimenting with unfamiliar processes and methods, and learning to learn.
- Conceptual Development: where the studentfocuses on ideation strategies, cultivation of nuance, research methods, collaborative growth, and interdisciplinary thinking.
- Professional Preparation: where the student focuses on learning not only to apply their experimentation to professional contexts, but learns also how to improve on typical professional work by promoting deeper thinking and a richer process than is usually asked for within professional contexts..
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Finally, I am an advocate of continuing my own learning. I continually refine projects, courses, plans as an educator. In my practice, I pursue courses, workshops, and conferences that challenge my work as both a designer and educator. I engage students in conversations about their experiences and keep a close eye on the results of student work in my class and afterward. Through these varying activities, I pursue the kind of continuous improvement as well as willingness to learn from failure that I hope to see in my students.