Five Things Educators Could Learn from Designers


Royan Lee tweeted a recommendation about design. It had me thinking about how intrigued I have been of the concept of design in our world. I've been reading books and listening to podcasts about product design, web design, photography, marketing design and visual design.

I'm finding that these books and podcasts have been changing the way I think about teaching. Sometimes the most relevant work for a teacher isn't a teaching book. I don't dislike educational books. It's just that lately, I tend to be drawn toward story-telling and creativity and the application of ideas from outside the edu-sphere.

So, here are five things that educators could learn from designers (I use this term loosely):

  1. Relationships Matter: While education often treats students as consumers of knowledge, designers often treat consumers as people in a relationship. It is, in a sense, user-centered. There is a dark side to this. Sometimes design and marketing become methods for tricking people. Sometimes they help lead to a sense of selfishness and narcissism  Still, I think the focus on the user would make a difference in education. What kind of experience are we creating for students?
  2. A Focus on Observation: As I read books and blogs by designers, I am struck by the need for observation and for the recognition of context. I see this in writing as well. There is a sense that what we design needs to be relevant and rooted in a context. 
  3. Understanding the Intangibles: Designers often deal with paradox, negative/positive space, the influence of space, the visual elements, the blend of form and function. I think we could learn a thing or two about these ideas in planning lessons, constructing schools and designing classrooms.
  4. Thinking Holistically: What does this make people think? Feel? Do? I'm wondering what it would look like to plan lessons where we think about how students think, what they feel and how they respond. 
  5. Experimenting: There is a sense in design that we have to experiment, that things can be messy and that creativity is critical to making anything worthwhile. I find it odd that designers, who should be focussed on a product are often focussed on the process, instead. Meanwhile, teaching is often treated like a product rather than the messy process that it is.
SHARE

John Spencer

John Spencer is a teacher, author, speaker, and incessant doodler. He is the co-author of Wendell the World's Worst Wizard and the co-founder of Write About. He is passionate about helping students develop into better writers and deeper thinkers.

  • Image
  • Image
  • Image
  • Image
    Blog Comments
    Facebook Comments

15 comments:

  1. "...teaching is often treated like a product rather than the messy process that it is." Spot on. This sentence alone demands lots of reflection...and should compel us to reconsider our assumptions and approach to teaching.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Tagging on to what David noted about teaching being treated more like a product rather than a messy process - my students and I gain much more from the teaching-learning process when we let it get messy and then reflect on the process (the mess). The reflection we experience is fantastic. Thank you for allowing me to be part of this discussion, I believe it will benefit my practice and student learning.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for being part of the discussion! I think the process and reflection are vital to learning.

      Delete
  3. I think you hit on a key element in your last line - there is a huge difference between process and product. The cliche, I think, is that it's the journey, not the destination, that's important.

    What is so frustrating to me about education is that we are focusing on getting all of our students to the (literal) same destination - passing scores or better on standardized tests, same curricula. I wish we were able to let our students simply enjoy the journey to wherever it was they were going, instead of having them all look out the same grimy bus windows on their trip to Podunk.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly. Somehow common (not a bad thing) becomes standardized and then the individual is lost in the process.

      Delete
  4. This: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/design_hell

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That was hilarious and tragically funny.

      Delete
    2. I cannot tell you how many times I have been in that situation.

      Delete
  5. I'm always struck by how much I love designers as well. Two other things I've learned from designers and reading about design (basically extensions of what you've already mentioned):

    6. Failure. Designers expect failure and use it as feedback. They don't load it to the brim with fragile emotion like we do in education.

    7. The most successful designers/writers/artists know how to do work. They don't approach the creative process as a lottery, or a process of magical discovery. They don't proverbially sit under trees waiting for that apple to fall on the head. They do work.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. To add to #7, they also work under deadlines, a skill that is slowly being set aside in classrooms.

      Delete
  6. If you added 6-8, I'm going to add a number 9: Intellectual rigor. It requires hard work, but also deep thought. I'm struck by the fact that the best artists are intuitive, yes, but also logical and analytical.

    ReplyDelete
  7. The Henry Ford Academy of Manufacturing Arts and Sciences is a charter located in Dearborn, MI, housed at the Henry Ford Institute, with a curriculum based entirely on design principles. Fascinating place. Open admissions, the usual school org problems, amazing teachers, uber-innovative curriculum. And average test scores.

    My kinda charter, you know?

    ReplyDelete
  8. As much as I live and die with the rigour of design, my courses are often criticized (by my peers in the fine arts) as lacking spontaneity and often considered too functional to be considered as important as fine art. I hate to break this awful news, design is everywhere, yet our understanding of it in the K-12 environment is almost non-existent. Curriculum in itself is a product of design.

    ReplyDelete

Please leave a comment. I enjoy the conversation.