I believe that to teach is to motivate—to instill in students the desire to learn, and to continue to want to learn, long after their university experience is over. My goal as both teacher and mentor is to produce life-long learners driven by their own curiosity. To do this, it’s imperative to create an environment of discovery and revelation; a safe environment for taking risks is critical because failures are as important as triumphs (perhaps even more so). Part of good teaching is encouraging the taking of risks. Learning with fear is not about being afraid; instead, it’s about learning how to trust in one’s self in order to recognize the answers one has been seeking. It’s my hope that students learn to rely on their instincts and confidence to guide them. As such, my goal is to set challenges that push them beyond their comfort into the unexpected. Good design is perilous—and elusive, the best design my students are capable of will always elude them.
I utilize a Socratic approach of informed provocation and guided questions. My aim is to lead students through their own journey, without revealing answers they themselves seek to obtain. I try to facilitate and promote the habit of inquisitive investigation. To pursue good design, it is never fair to give students answers—to give students direct answers is to fail them as teachers. It robs them of that quintessential, awe-inspiring moment of wonder inherent in the act of discovery. To this end, it’s important to provide students with the tools and means for discovery, while creating a space for experimentation through trial-and-error. Encouraging students to play—truly experiment in their work—is a central tenet within my teaching. I ground students in theoretical precepts, while allowing them to explore their ideas through tangible experimentation. It is this conscious exploration that allows them to understand both methodology, and what they are trying to express.
Teaching design is a process: a process of integrative learning that balances thinking and making. Design is as much about its principles and methodologies as it as about intuition and creativity. To that end, I believe that education is about empowering students, giving them the tools for discovery, and helping the realize their potential. Classroom learning is a student-centric endeavor where I function merely as a fortifying catalyst. Building confidence in their own abilities is the key to instilling in students the capacity to take risks and trusts in their own judgment. In the end, critical analysis is an experience that must be earned through continual application of the decision making process that is design thinking.
Experimentation is a powerful instigator in creating a holistic student. It is my intent to create dynamic challenges that push students to explore beyond what they think they know into unknown territories. Experimentation coupled with the empirical practice of material investigation is a powerful combination for allowing students to explore their ideas, as well as to learn discipline and mastery. Design does not exist independent from collaboration, and real-world scenarios. The problem-seeking projects I create provide students valuable experience that can translates to real-world scenarios. To this end, a correlation between what students learn in the classroom, and how it translates to life, is indispensable to student achievement.
Lastly, students need to understand that design does not happen without the help of, or the input from, others. Therefore, collaboration plays a crucial role in my classroom. It’s vital that students recognize and acknowledge the need to seek diverse perspectives as part of their own growth. I hope students learn that collaboration is not a diminishing experience, but one that generates greater possibility for even more beautiful communication.