I recently had to think about design education again. I sense some divide between approaches of design education. The devide is to some degree a difference between classical and novel ways. I try to identify the differences in these two conceptions:

The classical way

  • all theoretical implications are researched in the moment they are required through the practice of work
  • designs situations that are supposed to be simulations of working life: assignments are seemingly similar to the kind of jobs you are supposed to do as job starter
  • suggests that design methodology and practice basically is fully understood and only tools changes from time to time
  • sees success as question of structuring the curriculum into staged levels of increased difficulty
  • argues that students start from a very limited base of competences and usually would need to acquire a defined set of competences in a consecutive way
  • claims that experiences have shown that students will not be able to identify their lack of knowledge and therefore would not be able to select wise learning goals
  • defines professionalism as something that can be reached by affirmation and “learning through observation”
  • educational topics are often recruited from mainstream media
  • counts high quality results more than the quality of processes

The novel way

  • does not necessarily disqualify the classical approach but it strongly questions that this alone will not lead to good design or skillful designers
  • regards theoretical implications and practical implications as equally important areas of research
  • locates design competence not primarily in the domain of talent, creativity and skills but rather in the cognitive domain
  • argues that design and methodology itself is changing (not only the tools) or has yet to be discovered
  • says it would be practically impossible or useless to “just” simulate the working life because it would not create the intellect and personality required
  • claims that students would not learn to deconstruct, recontextualize, rethink or transfer if only challenged the classical way
  • argues that learning strategies that assimilate research strategies play a crucial role (experiment, critical thinking)
  • suggests that there needs to be a quest for new questions and not only new answers to known questions
  • says that students start with a broad set of competences and experiences and first and foremost need help to be able to reframe their knowledge to foster design processes and attach any useful new experiences
  • argues that professionalism can only be reached by a combination of affirmation and inventive thinking
  • encourages students to autonomously define their own learning agenda if possible
  • suggests that educational topics should not only be recruited from mainstream media but also to great extend from science topics
  • counts the quality of the process and the quality of the results as equally important

The problem is that proponents of the “classical way” disqualify the “novel way” as a waste of time, not very effective, anti-disciplinary and over-demanding for students. Usually neither party has to offer empirical data beyond personal experience to support the claims. The same few statistical data about employment rates are often used to support contradicting arguments. There does not seem to be a consensus.

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