A Curriculum Based on the Psychology of Skill: Collaborating with instructors with Disdain for Teaching Beginning Design
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Many design curricula are structured to utilize instructors in beginning design who do not normally teach beginning design. These instructors frequently misconstrue core foundational pedagogical initiatives for student development of creative design processes by importing ill-suited pedagogical approaches either from advanced studio methods or from design practices with little educational objectives. Others misconstrue beginning design pedagogy as mere acquisition of basic proficiencies in the belief that these skills can only be creatively applied in advanced studios or that students should explicitly be taught what they will need to know for future classes that these very instructors teach. Still others believe they are lowering themselves in teaching beginning design studio curricula, or, in the extreme, that teaching beginning design is in some way a punitive assignment. Instead, it should be realized that teaching at the foundation level of design curriculum offers opportunities for fundamental explorations of creative practices, with students whose relatively unencumbered approaches allow for discovery and invigoration of fresh design inquiries. The difficulties outlined above expose a schism between the educational mission of what is called the "bottom" of the curriculum, with its beginning foundational learning experiences, and the so-called "top" of the curriculum, with more content centered courses. Though causes of this schism may be found in instructor biases, curriculum structure, and other systemic factors, reading these difficulties through the psychology of skill attributes the misconstrual of beginning design pedagogies to a failure of curriculum to support development of creative skill as an emergent attribute of design education. Research in the psychology of skill characterizes development of skill as a staged systematic process leading to the emergence of mature skillfulness. Thus, pedagogical and instructional methodologies that underlie curriculum structure must support psychological development of skill as a natural systematic correlate of student progress. This paper will present the learning of design skills as specifically structured to connect development of creative capacities to psychological aspects of learning skill. As such, schema will be given to pedagogical intentions and the experience of teaching as a means of overcoming instructors who teach out of context or who do not like to teach beginning design or who are more connected to the methodologies of design practice. To expose the effectiveness of the curriculum model in transforming instructional approaches, the paper will juxtapose developmental structures that support creative education with those that foster "professional education." The intention is to expose differences in pedagogical underpinnings that lead to ways to integrate the perspective of each into an operable set of conditions that can be successfully and appropriately shared among all means of beginning design instruction.