Remote teaching during the recent pandemic has exacerbated a challenge that was already there for design teachers: How do we make meaningful connections with the students? We are all too familiar with the situation: We meet on Zoom to welcome the students, but they turn their cameras off. Attempts to get them to discuss an idea are met with an icy silence until a student – often the same as last time – finally makes a comment. The pandemic and distance learning have made visible the invisible work of relating with the students, drawing them into the learning space of design, and enabling them to become a part of the space that will make them designers. Becoming part of a professional community of practice, such as design, requires the learning of the particular knowledge, rules and art of the practice (Gherardi, 2012; Gherardi & Nicolini, 2006). But it has been proposed that, beyond the closeness of the “master-apprentice model”, design teachers need to give students the space to tell their own stories (Ghassan & Bohemia, 2015). What is a good teaching space? How do we assert a structure that pulls students in but give them the independence to take up their own positions? In this paper we reflect on our work of making meaningful connections as design teachers with emerging designers. We look at instances where this worked well, and where it did not work so well. Our experience shows us that students with different scholarly backgrounds (business, technology, art) approach the design studio differently, and respond differently to our attempts of inviting them into the space. Often, we capture students’ attention intuitively, while we experience a distance with other student cohorts. In exploring this space and reflecting on our experiences, we derive ideas about the affordances of teaching relations that make up the learning space.
Ruth Neubauer is a designer and design researcher of design practices. She has worked in the digital innovation industry in Vienna, London, and Brighton. Ruth has a doctorate from Loughborough University in Design Innovation, and she has a degree in painting and graphic art from the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. She researches and teaches at the New Design University in Sankt Pölten (A), the University of Art and Design Linz (A), and the Loughborough University in London (UK).
Elke Bachlmair is an industrial designer, design researcher and design strategist. She has led design, innovation development and brand development processes for companies in Europe and USA for 25 years. Elke has a degree in Industrial Design from the University of Art and Design Linz. She researches, teaches and leads cooperation projects with industry, institutions and NGOs at the University of Art and Design Linz (A), the Johannes Kepler University Linz (A) and the Management Center Innsbruck (A).