This paper focuses on a challenge within the School of Design at Glasgow School of Art, namely how to support critical and contextual discussion in a workshop setting. It is my experience that some students do not feel able or want to contribute to the critical dimension of these sessions; others object to the tone or contribution from other students; and there is a difficulty for everyone in knowing how to address sensitive or challenging subjects. Within design education, it is accepted that while the acquisition of procedural knowledge is important, more important still is that students become active critical thinkers and communicators. But what makes a critical space in an Art School and how is it cultivated? What is my role as the educator leading critical and contextual discussions, and how can I work with and support students to develop their critical skills? Furthermore, what pedagogical strategies would be useful to support critical engagement? This paper draws on pedagogical research conducted as part of a Practitioner Enquiry Research Project for the PG Cert in Higher Education Learning, Teaching in the Creative Disciplines. The project examined how to cultivate critical discussion and the ingredients necessary to support it in the context of my Year 3 course ‘The Politics of Space’. In this project I tested out different ways to ‘choreograph’ a critical discussion about public space that allowed for honesty, nuance and robust debate between participants, while maintaining a safe, respectful environment. This paper will discuss that research into different methods, such as the extent to which collaborative learning and scaffolding of critical thinking skills is helpful when crafting teaching sessions. I will also reflect on the dynamics within a critical discussion, with the ultimate aim of improving as an educator.
Dr. Eleanor Herring is a Lecturer in Design History & Theory at the Glasgow School of Art. Eleanor has worked in Higher Education since 2006, teaching undergraduate and postgraduate design studies, design history and theory, design anthropology and material culture studies at a variety of practice-based and academic design programmes in the UK, Singapore, Germany and the Netherlands. As a lecturer in DHT, Eleanor’s teaching tends to focus on the issues surrounding design in a social, cultural, economic and political context, particularly the systems and structures underpinning design. In 2016 Eleanor’s book ‘Street Furniture Design: Contesting Modernism in Post-War Britain’ was published by Bloomsbury. Eleanor’s current research project, ‘Designing from the Centre’, explores the role of the British government as ‘designer’. Working with project partners V&A Dundee and Panel, several specific outcomes are planned, including a public exhibition, a wide-ranging outreach programme, a podcast, an academic symposium and edited publication. Eleanor is in the final stages of completing a PG Cert in Higher Education Learning, Teaching in the Creative Disciplines.