Escaping “assembly-line instruction”: Design.ed as a desirable education style?

April 26, 2012 at 4:13 pm 2 comments

Diagram: CM, Adapted from Dr. Barbara Rogoff 2011 

Education has been a topic touched by various disciplines, organizations and governments. But as important as it is, not many radical moves have been undertaken in places like in my home country. Today I attended a lecture in the “Center for Children, Relationships and Culture“, part of the Human Development Dept. at the University of Maryland where Dr. Rogoff presented research on the way kids [her biggest studies are from indigenous Mesoamerica or kids with that heritage] learn. Her insights suggested that kids from this area have what she calls a learning through Intent Community Participation. As she mentions: “where children are included in a wide range of activities, they are keen observers and learn through contributing to the ongoing activities of their community.” On the contrary, the way the average American is educated is through what she calls: “Assembly line Instruction“. She indicates: “Unlike learning through Intent Community Participation Assembly-Line instruction controls learners’ attention, motivation, and behavior in settings isolated from productive contributions to the community“. In her work, she exposes the benefits of going for a more engaging education that touches reality and ongoing participation.


As soon as Dr. Rogoff presented the characteristics of Intent Community Participation instruction, I started to think: this looks very much like education in design…. Diagram: CM, Adapted from Dr. Barbara Rogoff 2011

No wonder why people are talking about incorporating some design-ed strategies in the schooling system. Design, and its project based studios are essentially derived from the times of the Ateliers at the Ecole de Beaux Arts and then at the Bauhaus [Read: A History of the Studio-based Learning Model
Jeffery A. Lackney ] and even further seen in the arts and crafts learning in the Middle Ages. Even though today, as an academic, I am questioning the “master and apprentice” teaching; as an instructor I see the benefits of Studio-based learning in the same way I see the benefits of Rogoff’s model of intent community participation learning model. Today, in design instruction, students are frequently coordinated to work in teams and to have a common agenda between them where the leadership roles switch depending on the projects they face. Also, and as I have done in a bunch of my courses, students are more and more encouraged to have a real endeavor in the course. To have a real project where they can participate actively with stakeholders, communities and organizations. They are not just learning the theory but applying it to a real purpose framed, generally speaking, by them. The ideal way that the instructor assesses the student’s work is through direct feedback embodied in what we call desk critiques. Still, I might say that I find group critiques more effective as the students can learn from their peers. For my surprise, in Chile, group critiques are more frequent and a normal practice compared to the States. Here, in the US, there is a level or “protection” to the student’s ego [pr self-confidence] by hiding grades or performance from others. Lastly, storytelling and narratives are an essential part from studio-based learning. And not just the verbal performance but also the non-verbal one. How the student constructs narratives [verbal-visual-performing] to communicate their novel ideas or insights coming from their fieldwork are.

No wonder why the studio-based learning has assets and techniques that could be incorporated as a way of instruction in lower and higher education. Let’s give it a try….


Entry filed under: Community, Design Thinking, Educacion, Public Policies, Teaching Methods.

Dance and Design, this is revolution Amalia, working with local artisans to achieve greatness

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contact + citing (CC license)

Constanza Miranda PhD(c) design.anthro
* Currently @ DILAB
* Ex.VR @ Stanford's Center for Design Research [DesignXLab]
* Ex.Instructor @ PUC Chile [Design+Engineering]
Use citations ¡Citar es ético!
Creative Commons License
Design for Social Innovation initiative by Constanza Miranda is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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