Academic journal article Visible Language

Teaching Design: Analysis from Three Different Analytical Perspectives

Academic journal article Visible Language

Teaching Design: Analysis from Three Different Analytical Perspectives

Article excerpt


Design education encompasses various teaching strategies with classes typically evaluated by students at the end of the term. This evaluation is often perfunctory: in contrast, the observational research presented in this paper examines a variety of design classes as they are taught, then analyzes the observations through three perspectives: across instructor comparisons, comparisons across class activities with regard to student behavior and the relationship between manual skill and reflective practice in studio work. While the study has a limited scope, the methods and analytical perspectives suggest new ways to improve teaching and learning in design programs.

Introduction: A Unique Opportunity

AS PART OF A TEACHING SEMINAR Taught at the Institute of Design, UT. seven students in the master and doctoral programs were given the same assignment: observe a design class, using video observation and a standard framework to be developed in the seminar and write an analytical paper based on their observations. Instructors were selected from the Institute of Design and at the Illinois Institute of Technology. All agreed to be observed during their teaching activities.

Because all seven observers of the classes used the same methods and worked with the same framework, the structure of this assignment lent itself to comparative analyses across all of the instructors:

* All observers had been trained in some form of video ethnography, typically used as a tool for user research in design.

* All observers worked on the frameworks used for logging data from the observations, increasing the cross-observer commonality.

* All observers filled out the same set of worksheets, in the same manner, with one student responsible for ensuring that all students filled out forms for all activities.

* All observers were available to the authors of this paper (who were also observers) to answer questions about their observation data and to ensure validity across responses.

Three authors-three perspectives

THE THREE AUTHORS OF THIS PAPER approached the data from three analytical perspectives, from the broadest to the narrowest:

Perspective 1: Across-Instructor comparison, using the 'Overall Observation' worksheets, some of the data from the more specific 'activity analysis' worksheets, as well as additional information from the prior year's student evaluations of instructors.

Perspective 2: Across-Learning-Activity comparison of overall student experience, primarily using the 'activity analysis' and 'aeiou'worksheets (activity, environment, interaction, object, use), that researchers filled in once during class activity.

Perspective 3: Across-Student comparison within the individual studio learning activity, using protocol analysis of the source video recordings and some data from the 'timeline' worksheets.


THE INSTRUCTORS REPRESENTED vary in age and teaching experience. Some of these instructors are seasoned professors with many years of experience as teachers and practitioners. Some are adjunct professors teaching on a part-time basis with jobs as consultants or with their own practices. Others are novice teachers, teaching for the first time at the college or graduate level. All the instructors observed taught some form of design, but the specific topics ranged widely within the design field, including product design studio workshops, systems analysis classes, introductory classes covering design as a topic and human factors classes. The students were mostly graduate students, but they could also be in different levels of their studies. Some of the courses were for the Foundation year students admitted to the program without a prior design background. Other students, who had an undergraduate background in design and a few years of working experience, were in their first and second year of a two-year graduate design program. …

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