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Philosophy of Teaching

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  • Philosophy of Teaching Statement
    An Open Letter to My Students:
  • Design is often associated with stylistic issues. I want to make this point clear first. Design is not about style, fashion, trends, or making things "pretty." Design is really a problem solving activity with “appropriateness” as the ultimate gauge of success – as every solution must be unique to it’s problem. Design, as I see it, is a verb and It takes a tremendous effort and a clear process oriented in human use and understanding. We often see the design process as: 1) problem definition 2) research 3) conceptualization 4) visualization / form-giving 5) testing 6) implementation. This process is a rational way to demystify what we do as designers. It gives clear parameters. It escapes the entanglement of stylistic issues but recognizes creative expression. It creates focus – manageable chunks to build a total whole. It is a clear framework for effort and trying. Putting a problem through this process has its rewards – a unique and enlightening solution.

    I believe that design is integrated into every part of society and is one of the most powerful tools of our culture for shaping our collective future. As we move forward in this course, we will explore this more and I hope to help you see the potential of design as an agent of change. As a Designer, I believe it is my mission to serve others in an effort to make the world a better place – idealistic, yes, but if my work somehow improves just one person’s life then I have accomplished my task.

    I am passionate about design, but I am also passionate about teaching.

    Teaching is the activity that energizes me the most and where my passion for design becomes most apparent. When I am in class, I am not just a designer, I am a teacher. When I teach, I finish my classes exhausted and energized at the same time. The challenge of bringing new information to you, the student, is one that I thrive on.
    You see, Teaching and Design are actually one in the same – both involve planning and orchestrating to serve and end-user. Design is the synthesis of the ‘what’ or the content and the ‘how’ or the form it is given. Teaching is much the same – how does one present content in a structured comprehensible manner with variety, dynamism, intensity, play, and interaction?

    When I teach, I attempt to provide a situation where all of the ingredients are at your disposal for you to make your own discoveries. When it happens, I can see the light bulbs go on. When it happens, you become empowered with a strong and lasting impression – much more so than had I told or spoon-fed solutions. I am reminded of the classic trope – which is better, the book or the movie? The book may take more effort, but it is most often overwhelmingly better. It is more abstract and you have to paint your own images. Whereas with the movie, it is all provided.
    In teaching design, my goal as an instructor is to inspire passion, develop independent thinking, and engage in play. Play is a form of focused intensity – in design it promotes intuitive risk taking. This is good. In teaching, I believe that play helps create an environment where you can feel comfortable to explore, ask questions, and share. I want you to share. I want you to share with me, and I want you to share with each other.

    In the next few months, I will ask you work in groups to varying degrees. I believe that working in groups can achieve results that far exceed what could be done by any one person. I know from experience that if a team can be open, honest, and receptive to each other, it can be a really great way to work. There are VERY FEW careers out there were working with others will not be a part of your day-to- day life and design is no different. Design is about sharing. It is about sharing knowledge, stories, and experiences. It is about giving back. This is true in teaching as well. If things aren’t shared they die – things that are shared grow.

    Here is the thing though. Teaching is the half of this equation that I have some control over. When it comes down to it, no matter how passionate I am about design and teaching, it does not matter if it is not met with a similar passion for learning. This is your half and your responsibility.

    Learning is hard. There is no other way to state it. Learning is hard and does not happen without a concerted effort from you, the learner. Learning is hard, but you get out what you put in. I imaging that you do not remember this, but having witnessed it as a parent, I know that you all worked very hard learning to walk and talk. You toiled endlessly. You fell. You made utterances that no one else understood. You got very frustrated, and then even more so upon realizing that no one but yourself knew how frustrated your were. You uttered more and fell more and you learned. Now you are all capable walkers and good communicators in your native languages, but it was hard. The only way that you succeeded was by putting in an amazing amount of effort.

    Part of the extreme effort I will ask for in the next few months will be to read things that we will not really talk about and to reflect on lectures that might be light on thought provoking content. If you can commit to read every word, spend time ruminating and reflecting on lecture content, and put in the needed effort and time our projects require, then you will learn to walk and talk like designers quicker than your peers who do not. This will translate to your competitive edge in this course and in the rest of your lives.

    Finally, I would like to state that Design is not about saying "I can't." It is about saying "How can I?" I firmly believe this, and I think that it applies to life in general. Perspective and attitude matter. There will be times when the phrase "I can't" will pop into your head. When this happens, this semester or any time in the future, I was you to ask yourself the following two questions as a response. 1) "Why can't it be done?" and 2)"What would have to be different to make it possible?" The answers will not always be easy, but they will be starting points for action. They will be the insights, questions, and notions that will provide you opportunities to grow and contribute. They may even be notions that will define your futures.

    Gabe Tippery - Instructor