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Designing Flexible Curricula: A Design Educators Conference Workshop at Pivot

January 20, 2012 / By admin

In October, Meredith Davis, director of graduate programs in graphic design at North Carolina State University, led a workshop entitled “Designing Flexible Curricula” as part of the Design Educators Conference at Pivot, which consisted of various educator workshops, roundtables and affinity sessions that were part of Pivot: AIGA Design Conference in Phoenix this past October.

Davis’s popular workshop inspired participants to rethink their design curricula. Citing the AIGA Designer 2015 trends, she urged educators to put aside old studio models like the atelier and the apprenticeship, moving, instead, toward crafting curriculum more appropriate to the shifting context of professional practice. Davis’s discussion touched on six issues critical to reframing our classrooms:

—Openendedness
—Situatedness
—Responsiveness
—Values
— Integration
—Authenticity in Assessment

Instead of just updating coursework, she challenged attendees to redefine their pedagogical tasks. Davis warned of ending up with “curriculum by accrual,” i.e. “adding new content or skills to an existing structure.”  Instead she advocated “specific strategies for building curricular structures that are both agile and responsive.”

Her presentation conclusion: “Learning experiences aren’t assignments, they are design problems.”

Davis’s presentation transitioned into a small group workshop activity that invited participants to evaluate a specific course from their own curriculum. Each educator group then moved on to write a course objective, learning outcome, and description of evidence for one of the following:

—A typography course that anticipates the next iteration of mobile technology after the iPad, without describing the technology
—A foundation studio course that prepares students to frame problems
—A studio course based on the design of tools and systems for collaboration

The workshop ended with groups presenting their ideas as Davis led an intriguing discussion of their findings.

Workshop Materials

Slides from Davis’s Presentation, Designing Flexible Curricula

Also of interest: Meredith Davis’s presentation from her Pivot affinity session, The Anatomy of a Student Learning Experience

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