Reflections on Ron Barnett’s “A Will to Learn, Chapter 8, Dispositions & Qualities”

Question 1
How do you recognise Barnett’s ‘qualities’ in the context of a course you work with? Think of a couple of examples
Integrity. Spotting plagiarism in student’s work is difficult. We are aware that some students have been doing that and we do not have evidence. Recently, a student has been caught “soliciting” project-related work. How can we ensure that we “instill” integrity in our students and ensure they produce work and thinking that originates from them?
Respect. I work with a team of very cooperative peers. We have Monday Morning Meetings which is an opportunity for us to discuss issues (face to face.)This allows us to disseminate any issues to associate lecturers on Thursdays and Fridays. I believe it is this mutual respect that we get up early and be there in time for every meeting!
Courage. The students have been plagued with sexual harassments issues and we take these very seriously. It is an ongoing thing which we have been monitoring and reporting for years. The ability to stand up and speak for themselves is truly courageous in times like today.
Question 2
To what extent do you recognise Barnett’s ‘dispositions’ in your own approach to learning? Assuming this varies, what influences them? 
They are very relevant in what I am learning in T&L now. As I started teaching only in January 2017, this allows me to learn and reflect critically in my Action Learning Tutorials in my Academic Leadership Elective Unit. Barnett’s writings has influenced me in “a sense of “prepardeness” in listening to others“. I have always neglected listening to students and this disposition that Barnet has been proposing allows me to reflect what my feelings were if I am a student asking questions. I felt I should listen to them more attentively. Although my large cohort puts me at a disadvantage, some of Barnet’s values have also influenced the way my teaching methods has in my peers in my course when i describe what i do in T&L. For example, the use of physical objects in a lecture and using a shared google questionnaire in a co working environment to gauge prior understanding before the start of lecture.

Micro-teaching the teachers

I do a lot of lectures to a large group of students so I should not be nervous. However, before the micro-teaching session started, I felt a bit nervous. I don’t know why.

Nevertheless, I was eager to show as I have done some preparation work on this session. My objective was to introduce the injection moulding process and how it can be used across different categories. This is a common mass-production process and a basic understanding for product designers. I was hoping to introduce this process to a non-technical student/person/teacher.

Since it is two weeks before Easter, I have a set of eight cards/steps that show how injection moulding is/can be used to make a chocolate bar. I started off the introduction using a Lego® toy by saying it is one of the most recognisable item and it is mass produced by plastic injection moulding. On the table, I have six other objects, Unilever®  Lynx/ Baby Dove soaps, Cadbury® chocolate bars and a cupcake wrapper.

What I would have done differently?

I would have used questions to engage my audience/students/teachers. I would ask them if they knew what I am going to teach before I start. This small group teaching is very different from my large group 90+ students lecture and I always wanted to show products (as examples) in my lectures but found it really difficult. Product design students need to see these samples to learn and engage the objects in front of them. I have used the visualiser in lectures and depend heavily on images and slides (keynote/powerpoint). I am always looking at ways of implementing this type of visual studies in my lectures and seminars.

The next step for me is to try this type of teaching in the second week of Summer Term on Product Design students. I will be showing them the CSM materials library section using texture samples, material samples, colour reference charts and discuss potential methods of manufacturing to illustrate how they can design small size mass produced products.

Click on this link to see feedback from my peers during this session.

Reflections on Innovative pedagogies series: Wow: The power of objects in object-based learning and teaching by Dr Kirsten Hardie

I find this is a well-structured way to learn to be curious. All her 3 case studies were conducted on 80+ students (in groups) which is similar to my teachings. Product design students need this! This activity provokes students to understand/learn in various ways: aesthetics, judgement, observation, analyse, meaning, drawing, visual literacy, key issues and context, etc. Students need to learn to push the boundaries, be on the “cutting edge” and be “unusual”.

Such activity can be identified as “reflection in action” (Schön, 1983): students reflect, evaluate & take action and make decisions during the activity.

Objects are important in Product Design. They can relive/retell the experience of the owner who owns the object and how one can relate one’s experience of this item with another person. An astonished “wow” or “oooh” as an acknowledgement for those who are familiar with that item and can either be unique/unusual or truly original.

Perhaps, the aim of OBL is to move away from describing beyond function and purpose to taste and enquiry. The concept of Enquiry Based Learning does resonate well with the object and the viewer and generates spontaneity, interest and engagement in the subject matter.

The plastic problem is now under a lot of scrutiny and the MODIPs relevance has shifted into mass produced. This is interesting to note.

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.

Reflections on Palmquist, S. 2004. Kant’s Ideal of the University as a Model for World Peace. In International Conference on 200 Years after Kant.

The concept of a World Citizenship is intriguing. The philosopher attempts to use debates to bring different genres of people together. Such diversity seems to be conflicting and he seems to look at it from a very different and holistic view. I felt he is an idealist and is optimistic when he writes this.

I like the way he describes the idea of an open conflict which is the basis for a peaceful and creative debate in academia. This was a regulated attempt to celebrate “diversity” and I think this metaphor is very appropriate for today.

Kant also mentions retrogression, progression and stagnation. A concept where he sees experience as constantly evolving and generating a moral “reasoning”

In these writings, we can see Kant’s influences for the last 200 years. I wonder if we can apply some those concepts today and what can we learn from there? From that period until now, there has been increased tensions, resulting in war and terrorist activities. I have learnt that universities can be seen as instruments of peace, bringing the balance back and embracing mutual respect.

Reflections on Whitehead, A.N. 1929. Universities and their Function. In the Aims of Education and other essays. The Free Press. pp91-101

These writings are refreshing for me as it describes the histories of some of the most elitist colleges in UK and US. This is written at the time when the business school is starting in Harvard.

I want to bring your attention to the point where he says that a way to connect between the young and the old is the University. Currently, this is not necessary true as a fair number of students do stay on in their respective academic fraternity after they graduate and gradually turning into key figures.

In some aspects, his thinking is quite ahead of his time in this writing. He “hints” on globalisation and the business effects it has and he sees the results of people moving across borders as good for future generations.

His discussion on “how prolonged work routine dulls the mind of young men….hence, we need to find ways to deter this” is intriguing and I have started to look at what I do from what he said about the imaginative acquisition of knowledge.

He also sees how the scholars, discoverers and inventors can be part of the force that develops into the “Instruments of Progress”, a thinking which I have started to take notice now.

Also, the statement where he says “that some of the more brilliant teachers are not among those who publish” is interesting and applicable, as a practitioner/teacher like me, need to find the balance as i think direct communications with my students is perhaps more approachable than books.

This has reminded me of the 2008 Harvard commencement by JK Rowling, which is also a book: Very good lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the importance of Imagination.

Reflections on Aoun, J. 2017. A Learning Model for the Future. In Higher education in the age of artificial intelligence. MIT Press. pp45-75


This is very relevant today and I felt this is very close to what my interests are. New typologies have emerged as a result of an acceleration in AI technologies and machine learning. The writings mentioned humanics. I think these concepts unifies my thinking on how I can start to leverage some of these in my teachings: marrying technology, data and irreplaceable human “literacy”

The other aspects mentioned were cognitive capacities which highlights critical thinking, systems thinking, entrepreneurship and cultural agility. This has allowed me to look at how we can use these insights to inform my teachings in technical studies where cultural diversity and sensitivity is important in my diverse cohort. I can start to think about how I can use an inclusive approach to deliver a technical lecture.

Our group discussion also highlights that this text is written in a “she” context which is interesting and refreshing. Perhaps, the author has taken an emphatic approach to highlighting situation of more women in technology /STEM subjects.

about KC…

“My teaching area is technical studies in under/postgraduate Product Design/Industrial Design. There are situations where I need to conduct lectures, workshops and tutorials to enable students to use appropriate technology, techniques and technical means to learn and reflect upon their designs.

Each lecture that I give usually has around 70-100 students and they are aligned to a specific unit of study. I hope to gain an in-depth understanding of how to work with a large class student teaching and also perhaps use a different approach to teach international students. My students have various learning capabilities due to this mix. Eventually, I hope to be able to inspire them to reflect upon their learnings and knowledge.”

KC Leong

Product, Ceramics and Industrial Design/BA Product Design/Tech Studies Lead

Spring 2018/PGCert: Academic Practice in Art, Design and Communication/Teaching /Learning Cohort B/Academic Leadership