Cohort Seminar Follow up for “The” Student Experience.

What role does our personal history play in our experience of learning?

Through my personal life experiences, I have developed an ability to empathise with someone who is about to go through what I have gone through while studying at design school. I aim to teach the fundamentals/essentials but also illustrate emerging subjects to a diverse and large cohort of students. Growing up in a multicultural society in Singapore, I understood the importance of diversity. We need to acknowledge an individual’s passions and limits. It is important to give them freedom and allow them to play seriously. I frown upon teaching to meet what the industry needs. I think design school allows one to develop radical concepts that challenges the industry.

What do we do with what we learn?

1. Store, and retrieve

2. Unlearn

3. Share

Store, and retrieve. I teach technology, technical and techniques in product design. I am constantly researching new material and this informs what I teach. My lectures have to be carefully curated due to a substantial amount of material I have accumulated over the years.

Unlearn. We should not accept new knowledge or learnings as truth. We can use the knowledge acquired to question its authenticity and challenge it, where necessary. This can provoke further investigations into the subject matter and uncover new knowledge

Share. Perhaps this is the first thing a teacher would do. Tutors’ dual roles as current practitioners and educators is beneficial to students learnings, especially when a tutor share their area of expertise to students . However, “too many cooks spoil a broth”happens when the student cannot grasp how to make sense of all the comments. So, it is important to disseminate information according to learning levels of each student.

What are the risks in encountering new ways of thinking, being and making?

This new way of thinking might be confusing to students. “Making” is pragmatic and can be seen as a form of experimentation during the early stages of their course. We encourage this in stage one. “Being” is transient and I believe this is less pragmatic than making. If “being” is explained as an experience of some form, they can perhaps understand it better. The concept of “being” is important in the later stages of the course. Very often we (my course) see ourselves as a course which is a BA trying to be an MA. The students experiences a dichotomy in how they create their work/projects. A quarter of the final year students will grasp this experience(being) and push it extremely well but the rest will have confusion/conflicts during their studies. If “being” and “making” is working, the student’s learning experience would be greatly improved.

How does learning change the way we experience ourselves?

Learning allows me to view current issues with a curious mind. Not to reject it or be cynical. Often, it refreshes my approach to lectures and tutorials. As a studies leader/researcher, I acknowledged that design can be interdisciplinary. My research area is in emerging near-future typologies and they are relevant in the areas of my technical teachings for the students. I became more critical about what I do in my professional current practice and question what is more imperative: the final result or the process ?

Do you agree with Huxley’s view on experience? “Experience is not what happens to you. It’s what you do with what happens to you”. (Aldous Huxley 1932, Texts and Pretexts)

In the teaching context, this is relevant and I agree with him. Students might not perform under pressure. They can also be over ambitious and that can lead to failure. Through these they learn. My case studies and lectures tend to honour the good examples/”best practises”. Recently, I have been reading books on failure, product recalls and the Museum of Failure. I think they can also benefit from learning what has failed. Once the student graduates and start practising, the work environment is dynamic, unforgiving and harsh. The prior experiences becomes more relevant and useful. It is what they have achieved or failed earlier that makes them stand out from their future work.

Teaching and Learning Seminar 1


Communications/ Freedom of speech

We wonder if the students have more freedom of speech instead of the tutors. This is a value that art school students have (intrinsically) but we have seen this being misused in recent cases where racism nazi logos were expressed as art.

Balance / intuition and critical thinking.

I believe that using a hands-on/practical approach can be a way to develop these values when we teach. The act of experiencing with the activity allows the student to learn through success/failure and the prior process will be the start for them to reflect/think through the critical aspects.

Open-minded and un-biased perspectives

In large group teaching, sometimes its difficult to know each student’s work and personal preferences.. So, it is inevitable that a tutor would have favourite names and remember some more than others. I have a problem remembering all the names in a large cohort. The work around is to carry a name list with their faces and go through them each time before a lecture. This is helpful, especially, for getting to know new Stage 1 students.

In group tutorials, keeping a neutral perspective is important and so is encouragement/advices to each student in the group.

Risk taking, play and experimentation

An important part of the student experience should be based on this, I believe. The main focus should be serious play, a way to reflect your failures and build on quickly in the near future. In my opinion, my students are focused on getting a good grade and have neglected the opportunity to use the process to experiment.

Professional approach

Part of what I have been practising (in my professional career) for the last decade was a subliminal example of how I can be a role model and inspire my students in our learning context (which is a healthy environment of experimentation!)

Empathy / Compassion

Almost all of us in the PGC course has gone through the same experience as the students. I have also made a point not to stress students out a few days before submission datelines.

NSS context: I believe the NSS survey occurs at the worst time of the year as students’ final project grades have just be released and there will inevitably be a few disgruntled students and rants.

Honesty  (Sincerity, Realistic)

Authenticity is what I find missing this is discussion when I mentioned it to the team. In my area of teaching, we have to ensure that we instil the correct examples and portray a good example. There are a lot of “noise” out there and we have to teach the imperatives instead of the unnecessary.   

Reflections on texts by Vilhauer and Munday


Chapter 3, Understanding Art: The Play of Work and Spectator by Vilhauer

The concept of serious play that Gadamer describes in this text is important in my context of large group teachings.

I give my students the freedom to ask questions while I am delivering a lecture. I encourage them to do so. This allows them to engage quickly in the knowledge and allows me to gauge if they have been listening and reflecting. I think this participation is an important part of play. This will encourage students to experiment and be bold when doing it.

According to Gadamer, human play reaches it’s ultimate complete form in the work of art. Initially, I thought this was a good example as I relate this to the visuals that I use to show students when describing an issue in teaching. Later on, I also started to experiment/use movies or moving imagery to highlight the context. This act now becomes a “play” which is acted out in a very clear  and dominating manner where it becomes “real”

So once you have experienced the “play”, you would be able to relate that to your peers and initiate a further discussion.  This would mean that what I have shown earlier has made an impression and they would perhaps investigate further.

The classroom: a problem or a mystery? by Dr Ian Munday

This is a more recent and easier to understand text/concept on the factors that surround current teaching phenomenology(IMO)

An issue that always bothers me is that large group lectures (80-100 students) that I give once/twice each week (6-7 weeks total) can be very disruptive for their current projects. Hence I have started to look at how I can align some of my teachings to the project work that they are doing now.

Almost at the end of my lecture, there would be silence when I ask : “If you have any more questions ?” And then followed by applauses at the end… ( Since then, I have questioned myself:  Why do I ask? and if there is a way to get feedback from students without even asking?)

So when I see the title of this text, the silence sort of makes me think that I might have a problem with my lecture hence its silent at the end. For me that is still a mystery i have yet to find out….

In the text, he mentioned Gabriel Marcel’s concepts of “Being and Having“ which is a good way to explain my sentiments.

I see “Being” as an experience. This can be temporary and it can be ritual that the student experiences almost everyday when he learns something new/important. “Having” the knowledge acquired is not  important any more and a student will start to generate new thoughts and ideas using these as a starting point.

The text ends with a notion that describes a certain freedom which allows creativity to happen. Instead of containing and regulating the classroom, a bit of uncertainty and mystery might help spark creativity. This echoes Gadamer’s text earlier.

I have known the usefulness of a lesson plan and I should sometimes allow some flexibility and play in it to encourage engagement and learning.