Strategic Teaching: A Proposition

Next academic year, I will be managing and directing a full lecture and seminar series to students in the School of Design across five different postgraduate programmes, which will comprise circa. 200 students. In terms of developing a strategy, utilising blended learning will be a clear development for this series in order to deepen the learning experience for the students, both before and after each week’s session.

One way in which I can use online resources is to develop a tumblr of media resources including texts, images, videos, archives and links, which is updated after each class with material relevant to that week’s topic. This resource would enable students to explore each week’s topic in greater depth through a variety of different media.

Another strategic development for this series is aimed at getting creative practitioner students to write more frequently and to receive more feedback on their work. Using the electronic portfolio facility, students will be asked to write 500 word pieces after every third lecture, to be posted and shared and posted on their ePortfolios. These writings will then be peer reviewed.

The briefs for these writing exercises will build on the series’ topics but make links towards students’ potential dissertation projects, to help them develop out ideas from the series into their own work. In choosing this strategy, I am aiming for students to achieve the fifth level of the Structure of the Observed Learning Outcome (SOLO) taxonomy of learning, Extended Abstraction, whereby they gain abstract and deep understanding through unexpected extension, to enable them to create, formulate, generate, hypothesise, reflect and theorise (Biggs & Collis 1982).


Biggs, J. B. and Collis, K. (1982) Evaluating the Quality of Learning: the SOLO taxonomy. New York, Academic Press.


Deep Learning: A Strategy for Contextual Studies for Creative Practice

In the field of teaching contextual studies to creative student-practitioners, there is oftentimes an ambivalent or ambiguous, sometimes even fractured, relationship between students’ studio work and their contextual studies work. This ambivalence emerges through individual practitioners’ attitudes to the relationship between theory/history and practice. For some students, the context of practice, both theoretical and historical, is critical to their development as a creative practitioner; for other students, contextual studies is not perceived as being in anyways ‘useful’ to the work they produce in studio.

In order to encourage learning in contextual studies, I tend not to teach historically (i.e. through periodisation) but rather thematically. This design of teaching means circling around a contemporary discourse, such as the move towards automation, and then fleshing out its history, say, from eighteenth century onwards. In following this trajectory through a contemporary issue, I aim to encourage students to examine and investigate different theoretical approaches to the contemporary, in order not only to make history relevant to the now but also to demonstrate how historical theories or theoretical histories can be drawn on to develop critical thinking about the now.

Central to my pedagogical practice is the concept of reflexivity, or reflective practice (Schön 1984; Brookfield 1995; Larrivee 2000). It is a mode that is heavily emphasised in students’ studio work, sometimes explicitly but sometimes implicitly. Throughout their studio practice, students are encouraged by their studio teachers to reflect on the creative decisions they are making in producing work and why they are making those decisions.

I draw on this mode in the lecture theatre, seminar room and tutorial space, to ask the same questions around students’ ideas. For example, at the start of any self-guided written work, I ask students to reflect on why they are researching this topic, why it is important, why it is important to them and and why it is important to the field of design. I continue this mode of teaching by always asking students what they think of an idea, or a piece of history, or a method of research, whether that be in a small seminar group or large lecture theatre. In operating dialogically (Arnett 1997), my pedagogical strategy is to develop my students’ critical thinking skills, abilities and knowledges. In pursuing this strategy, and by pushing students to make explicit their own personal investments in their work, I aim to encourage deep learning.


Arnett, Ronald C. Dialogic Education: Conversation about Ideas and Between Persons. Carbondale IL, USA: Sothern Illinois University Press, 1997.

Brookfield, Stephen. Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1995.

Larrivee, Barbara. “Transforming Teaching Practice: Becoming the Critically Reflective Teacher.” Reflective Practice 1.3 (2000): 293-307.

Schön, Donald A. The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action. New York, USA: Basic Books, 1984.