Apparel design is a complex problem-solving activity where the range of possible problems and solutions is infinite. It is in this multiplicity of solutions that teaching in our field is never stagnant: for both the students and myself as their educator. For the courses I teach, which focus on the creative and technical aspects of apparel design, the two skills that are imperative for success in the modern apparel industry are abilities to conceptualize and solve problems and lead innovation through technology applications. As Jeffrey Veen has stated, "good design is problem-solving," and I believe that apparel educators should build in students a foundation of conceptual thinking, a skill that is transferable to a wide range of experiences. Apparel course curriculums not only need to disseminate conceptual design and product development knowledge but also skill-based expertise about how to use and apply relevant apparel technologies. Technology is constantly evolving and pushing the boundaries of the discipline. Therefore, I aim to make students aware of the possibilities of using technology as tools for executing their ideas. Integrating these two skills, creative problem-solving and embracing technology, in the classroom is an integral part of preparing students for careers in the apparel industry. Students who complete my courses can lead creative endeavors, and they have the technical skills to achieve innovative outcomes.
Creative problem solving and technology-enhanced apparel innovation are inextricably tied to my areas of research. Through my research, I model for students how research-driven design can make lasting impacts in the apparel industry. Before teaching at MU, I was a freelance technical designer and graphic designer for eight years. This experience has enhanced my ability to provide students with a grounded industry-focused foundation to help them develop the conceptual, creative, analytical, and interpersonal skills needed to be successful when transitioning to the apparel industry. I bring to the classroom both technical design skills and depth of knowledge that come with practical experience.
PROMOTING AN ACTIVE AND INCLUSIVE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT
I firmly believe that it is essential to foster a classroom environment that emphasizes inquisition and exploration by promoting an active and inclusive learning environment. I achieve this goal by incorporating experiential learning models that strongly emphasize user-centeredness. Through course projects, students engage with end-users for whom they design apparel products, which can reduce prescriptive design. Sensitivity to diversity is inherently imbued in each project and overall in the classroom setting through interactions with diverse user groups. I strive to provide a safe and trusting atmosphere for students to engage in this intellectual challenge through design. Within these environments, it is possible to equip students with a knowledge and skills base that is transferable and sustainable.
Course Design Meta-Goals
In my course design, I address content and process knowledge through meta-goals. These broad learning goals are adopted and synthesized from the ITAA Four-Year Baccalaureate Program Goals. My course goals include:
Develop a curiosity of design process and understand how the design process can support quality of life.
Speak to design as a systematic process that is rooted in theory and history
Use the design process to Identify and interpret needs and wants of consumers
Apply user needs to plan, develop, produce, and communicate product lines.
Document the entire process of design to show student advancements in course concepts
Appreciate the possibilities of group creativity and thrive as team members within diverse environments.
Demonstrate critical and creative thinking skills, including the ability to critique oneself and others constructively.
Apply quantitative and qualitative methods for problem-solving within the apparel design process.
Use appropriate technology to facilitate critical problem solving.
Communicate ideas in written, oral, and visual forms using appropriate technology.
Stephen Brookfield, a seminal researcher on teaching, is a champion of critical reflection. Critical reflection is necessary means to understand the dynamics between and within students/teachers, students/students, and teachers/administrator relationships. In understanding these relationships, we may addresses biases and assumptions we hold that have both positive and negative impacts on the learning environment.
It is important to be critically reflective of our teaching methods in the classroom. Through reflection, we can highlight any assumptions that may be negatively affecting student experiences. One classic example is ‘The Circle’ discussion method. Methods such as these are frequently used during discussions sessions with the intention of creating an atmosphere conducive to conversations. As Brookfield addresses, it can cater to students who are confident and loquacious, but also encourage irrelevant comments because of pressure to contribute to the ‘conversation.’
As a person who needs time for reflective analysis, I agree methods such as 'the circle' is more conducive and natural for conversations, but it must be made explicit that if students don’t have something to contribute, then they should not feel pressured to do so.
It is my professional development goal to be critical about each method used in the classroom. I will do this though informal course and teaching evaluations midway throughout the semester. Evaluations will provide me with student feedback that can modify the classroom dynamics and address any unknown assumptions on my part that may not be aiding in student learning experience.
To read more from Stephen Brookfield, click the button below.
When addressing multiple learning styles, experiential learning implicitly offers a variety of ways to present course material, an array of assignments, and multiple methods of assessing student learning. Methods that I combine include
demonstrations (through material and visual examples)
student presentation of the group and individual projects
I facilitate lively and intellectually stimulating discussions among students, for as much as students learn from their instructor, they also learn from one another, and perhaps more-so by negotiating and synthesizing ideas. Education should be memorable, grounded in concrete examples, and when appropriate, education should be experiential.
INDUSTRY COLLABORATIONS IN THE CLASSROOM
The ability to ‘think like a designer’ is best learned by experience. By including industry partnerships into an academic curriculum, we can encourage problem-solving skills. I aim to incorporate industry collaborations into my courses so that the transition from the academic environment to the apparel industry is smooth.
In my teaching, I encourage students to engage with the end-users for which they are designing to reduce prescriptive design. Experiential learning models (e.g. project based learning) enable collaborations where the needs of end-users can be worked into the framework of the class objectives.
EFFECTIVE DESIGN PROBLEMS
Particular to apparel design, the main framework that organizes this experience is the design problem, typically wrapped up into a singular project. This does not mean that I will rely on projects alone to carry all the educational experiences necessary to become fluent in design. Nor is it outside of limitations of scope and time, but the design problem is organized to ensure specific experiential outcomes. In my opinion, design problems simultaneously advance the student’s practical and theoretical training in the field.
One primary method that I focus on to provide experiences in the classroom is project-based learning. As students progress through project-based learning courses, they may be challenged with a variety of people and contexts. Because of this, sensitivity to diversity is inherently imbued in each project and overall in the classroom environment. Teaching in a project-based system is in itself is a form of research into the nature of design and product development.
ASSESSMENT CLOSES THE FEEDBACK LOOP
Efficient, systematic, and consistent assessment is a way to communicate with students. Whether the assessments are traditional (quizzes and tests) or informal (feedback on minute papers), they are tools to generate a conversation about the student's and instructor's performance. Assessments set throughout the course allows me to communicate my goals to students so they can learn more effectively. Strategically placed assessments allow me to identify misunderstandings that will help me teach better by pacing the course and assigning grades (Svinivki & McKeachie, 2011).
PORTFOLIOS OF PROGRESS: EVOLVING FROM PRODUCT BASED TO PROCESS BASED
In my assessment of student learning, the actual end-product is of lesser concern than the process. Thus, sequential and cumulative evaluations are used to assess student progress. Whether we intend it or not, what ends up assessed is what ends up being valued in the classroom (Svinicki & McKeachie, 2011). In studio courses, the assessment is almost entirely centered on the final garment(s) or the best work produced by the students. In assessing only the final product, we are only placing value on the technical and aesthetic skills of the student designers, whereas the course objectives may have wider aims. Other course learning objectives such as, preparing students for a career in the field are often left unmet through this assessment.
In studio courses, whether it is computer-aided design, product development, or a seminar on collaboration the desired goals include developing a greater curiosity of design process, appreciate the possibilities of group design, and bring industry partnerships into the classroom. To get at this, I emphasize the process of design in studio courses by assessing their entire portfolio of work developed throughout the semester. Elbow & Sorcinelli, (2011) suggest that grading on the basis of portfolio, we are 'drawing on a more trustworthy picture of the student's ability or learning, thus 'validity' is enhanced." For example, first and second muslins make salient the challenges and accomplishments of the students that the final garment may otherwise mask. Much like drafts of a paper, the muslins act as low-stakes assessment points where feedback can be delivered. To develop self-awareness and self-evaluation skills, I require the portfolio to be annotated and include descriptions on how the work helped her/his development. Portfolio assessment helps both the student and the instructor see their progression (Svinicki & McKeachie, 2011).
GROUP WORK - A NECESSARY EVIL?
Group work, has a stigma of being unfairly assessed. Since the aim in my classes is to evaluate the process, I have devised a group assessment rubric that determine the ways in which students work together, focusing on group development. Assessment is centered on the way in which students are developing in the group, focusing on group process and teamwork more than on content learning (Svinicki & McKeachie, 2011). To assess content learning, individual assignments such low-stakes weekly papers (reports) can be used to measure individual learning within the overall group structure.
The annotation of my rubric addresses more specifically how group work is assessed to ensure adequate contributions of team members, fair decision making, skillful planning, adaptability within the group, and fosters communication. Svincki & McKeachie (2011) recommend group members to describe (without judgement) work provided by other members. Group members' descriptions of each members' contribution can be compared to get a more accurate picture of what each individual contributed. Group rating forms that list key contributions each group member should make are outlined in the rubric.
In a year-long commitment, the Faculty Institute for Inclusive Teaching (FIIT) brings together a cross-disciplinary network of faculty to explore promising practices around diversity and inclusiveness in the undergraduate classroom. A cohort-based program that combines expert facilitation with peer-to-peer learning, FIIT supports faculty in identifying course-specific improvements and builds faculty capacity for diversity and inclusiveness in the classroom. Through the use of case studies, self-awareness exercises, dialogue, and instructional skills, the Institute enhances faculty’s content knowledge about inclusive pedagogy as well as skills for managing diversity and inclusion in the classroom.
Teaching Functional Clothing Design Workshop
Held at Cornell University, this week-long workshop for college professors on the subject of teaching functional apparel design. The sessions covered approaches to teaching topics in functional clothing and smart clothing. The emphasis in these sessions was on developing teaching strategies and materials. In addition, workshop attendees investigated the use of electronic technologies to augment existing clothing functions and introduce new functionality (such as bio-monitoring and information display). Technical methods and challenges of fabricating garment-integrated electronics were explored.
Held at Camp Miniwanca in Michigan, The Wakonse Fellowship brings together faculty, teaching and learning professionals from postsecondary institutions who recognize and are devoted to the inspirational aspect of the teaching and learning process. Wakonse is an organization of individuals dedicated to promoting and sharing with colleagues the excitement and satisfaction of teaching in higher education.
ALS 6015 - The Practice of Teaching in Higher Education is a 16-week credit-based course designed to prepare Ph.D. students for academic careers. Instructed by David Way, this preparatory course aided in my teaching and professional development as a future instructor. Throughout the course, I was challenged to develop (and find) my professional identity. The course material addressed educational philosophies, learning theories, instructional methods, curriculum design, and assessment. Applied projects guided our inquiry by developing a course syllabus and assessment rubric. Additionally we articulated our research and teaching philosophy.
As a graduate teaching assistant (GTA) at Colorado State University, I attended teaching workshops as a means to enhance my understanding of best-practices in teaching. Below are a collection of reflection papers of workshops I attended:
Elbow, P., & Sorcinelli, M. D. (2011). Using High-Stakes and Low-Stakes Writing to Enhance Learning. In. M. Svinicki & W. J. McKeachie (Eds.), McKeachie's Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers (213-234). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Svinicki, M., & McKeachie, W. J. (2011). Assessing, testing and evaluating: Grading is not the most important function. In. M. Svinicki & W. J. McKeachie (Eds.), McKeachie's Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers (72-82). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.