Ensuring Effective Learning Environments

Article excerpt

CREATING A COURSE framework to engage students and meet their diverse learning styles is an evolving skill that improves with experience, says Rhonda Gilmore, a lecturer in the Department of Design and Environmental Analysis who teaches four required interior design courses and one elective.

Part of Gilmore's teaching strategy is to seek input directly from her students. At the start of the semester she asks them to write down their expectations for her course. Then she can target the intellectual and philosophical skill sets she wants them to develop. Gilmore's questions to her seniors, who have graduation and entry into the job market on the horizon, are more pointed. She asks what they feel they've missed and what makes them apprehensive about professional practice. Their answers determine the direction she takes the class.

Teaching a hands-on subject, Gilmore says, gives her the freedom to introduce novel teaching strategies. Three of the five courses she teaches are studio based, and she has introduced studio components into the other two. In one of her junior classes, Introduction to Materials, Finishes, and Furnishings, Gilmore uses what she calls the "head, hands, and heart" approach to teaching, which helps overlap the boundaries between the different ways students learn. She challenges the head through traditional testing of technical issues. The hands work with materials commonly used in interior construction, allowing students to push the potential and test the limits of each material. She encourages the heart, key to students developing and exhibiting passion for their work, by requiring teamwork and class presentations.

Technology also plays a prominent role in Gilmore's teaching. In the studio portion of her junior class Construction Documents and Detailing, she works side by side with her students on AutoCAD drawings, making suggestions and critiquing their designs as they work at their computers. …


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