Education in the New Millennium: The Case for Design-Based Learning
This article focuses on current examples of project or design-based learning at the secondary school level in the context of the increasing importance of creativity and innovative thinking in the twenty first century. The authors argue that students today learn more effectively in pedagogical practices that emphasise holistic thinking, active learning, visual media and problem-solving.
Design-based learning presents new ways for realising long-term goals and learning outcomes. The purpose of this article is to investigate best practices of design education in the community and to propose instructional resource examples on design to K-12 school teachers. This article points out the importance of systemised process for the work of design-based teachers and learners, addresses the study of design as a subject of investigation and a mode of inquiry that engages a variety of student learning styles and makes direct connections between subjects and problem-solving in daily life.
Our belief is that the case studies explored in this article represent the seeds of a new model of education based on creative and applied learning. The exemplar communities chosen for onsite research are the education department of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York City and the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, USA.
One of the most remarkable statistics in support of this transformation is China's creation of over 1,000 new design schools in the past 10 years alone. Beyond the remarkable growth of its manufacturing base in the past few decades, China's leadership clearly anticipates that innovation and creative thinking will be the keys to economic success in the future. In addition to China, the development of design education as part of a national policy is particularly strong in other Asian countries such as Korea, Singapore and Japan. This is partly attributable to the realisation that the traditional ways of learning in many Asian countries - imitation, repetition, memorisation and a rather absolute deference to the authority of the teacher, at least by Western standards - do not foster the kind of creative thinking that these countries see as critical to their economic future. Mayor of Seoul, Sae-Hoon Oh recently became the first municipal leader to appoint a Chief Design Officer to his cabinet. Next year, the Ministry of Education in Singapore will open not only a new design university, but even more importantly, the first design-based learning programme for secondary education sponsored created by government initiative. Clearly we are living in a paradigm shift that will continue to challenge the validity of traditional secondary and university pedagogical assumptions and methods. Our belief is that the case studies explored in this article represent the seeds of a new model of education based on creative and applied learning.
Conceptual framework (epistemological shift)
Very few secondary schools have fully understood the consequences of this shift: it means that visual learning, spatial and holistic thinking, the need to work simultaneously in different media, and (most critically) the importance of active learning over passive learning, are fundamental to the learning and cognitive processes of students today. Pedagogical methods that do not acknowledge and incorporate this shift will not succeed in educating students today or in the future. The project or design-based approaches to learning cited in this article all work to recognise and utilise the epistemological shift Kress (Kress & Van Leeuwen 2002) describes.
The phenomenon of design education
One of the participants in the teaching methods course, who is a director of education department of a design museum, was interviewed about the phenomenon of design education. Her name has been altered to protect the anonymity of the participants. According to Christine:
High schools that offer an academic emphasis in architecture and design are starting to appear in cities across the United States. Schools of fine art have been common since the magnet school concept was introduced several decades ago, but the appearance of schools of design is a relatively recent phenomenon. Why start a school of design? It may be that the importance of design in enhancing economic growth and quality of life is beginning to enter the public consciousness. Cover stories about design have begun appearing in the popular press, major corporations like Apple and MTV are leveraging innovative design to create hugely successful products and ad campaigns, and business consultants from Tom Peters to Daniel Pink have included chapters in their recent books about the relevance of design for success in business today. (Smith 2006)
Rayala (2005) has noted that Miami's Design and Architecture Senior High School (DASH), at 15 years old, and Philadelphia's Charter High School for Architecture and Design (CHAD), at six, are the oldest schools of their kind in the country. New Design High in Manhattan (2003) and Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design in Brooklyn (2004) were launched most recently, and design education advocates in Chicago and Cincinnati are currently deciding whether to start similar schools. As more students see the potential to mould their own futures through the introduction of design concepts and processes in high school, the potential for improving the quality of both life and education through schools of design seems very promising.
Christine Smith from her interview (Smith 2006) and the book by Davis et al. (1997) insisted that when students are engaged in the process of designing, they are learning to observe, identify needs, seek and frame problems, work collaboratively, explore solutions, weigh alternatives, and communicate their ideas verbally and visually. The design process includes periods for self-assessment, critiques of works in progress, revisions and opportunities for reflection (Davis et al. 1997). The direction for young schools of design is usually to teach 'through design' (using design to support learning in other areas) rather than 'about design' (approaching design as a cluster of autonomous disciplines), although the latter is an important goal in many programmes.
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About the authors
Dr. Hyun-Kyung Lee has an adjunct
faculty position at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. She
has a PhD in Arts Administration at Florida State University (FSU) from
Tallahassee, Florida; MA in Museum Studies from Syracuse University, in
Syracuse, New York; a BFA in Visual Communication Design from Hong-Ik
University, in Seoul, Korea. She worked as an intern at the Getty
Research Institute in Los Angeles; the Orange County Museum of Art
(OCMA) in Newport Beach and the National Modern Museum of Art in Seoul,
Korea. She has published books, articles and research papers on design
education and design museums.
Dr. Mark Breitenberg is the President
of Icsid's 2009-2011 Executive Board, and a Provost at California College of the Arts, USA;
Formerly Dean of Humanities and Design Science at Art Center College of
Design in Pasadena, California, USA; PhD in Literature and Critical
Theory from the University of California, San Diego; Author of many
articles in the fields of art, design education and literary history;
Author of Anxious Masculinity, a book on Shakespeare and his
contemporaries; Assistant Professor of English Literature at Swarthmore
College from 1987-1994; Adjunct Professor, Otis College of Design,
1998-2000; Writer/Producer at Parkwood Pictures, 1996-1998.