Design for Living Complexities

Friday August 16, 9.30-5.30, Location TBA

A Collaborative Exploration (CE) that explores how to bring critical thinking into the heart of design education.
Peter Taylor, Director, Graduate Program in Critical and Creative Thinking, and Science in a Changing World track, University of Massachusetts, Boston,

In brief, CEs are an extension of Project-Based Learning (PBL) and related approaches to education that begin from a real-world scenario or case in which the problems are not well defined, which leads participants to shape their own directions of inquiry and develop their skills as investigators and teachers (in the broadest sense of the word). The basic mode of a CE centers on interactions in small groups (online or face-to-face) over a delimited period of time in ways that create an experience of re-engagement with oneself as an avid learner and inquirer.

The 30+-year-old Critical & Creative Thinking Masters program at UMass Boston has always been about reflective practice and not purely about thinking. Recently it was suggested that the program could be called Critical, Creative and Reflective Design, which has led some instructors to flesh out what it would mean to bring design into critical thinking and critical thinking into design, especially when not tied to a specific field (e.g., graphics, architecture, furniture,..). For example, if we see critical thinking as understanding ideas and practices better when we examine them in relation to alternatives, then a relevant theme is that byproducts are products. That would lead us to contrast the idea of designing a car engine with the challenge of designing transportation systems that minimize the health and environmental impacts of CO2 and pollutants from exhaust.

In this CE participants are invited to draw on what is already happening in design education so as to develop modules or units or themes that a) interest you personally and b) bring critical thinking into the heart of design education. The intended outcomes include: a) tangible products--work-in-progress presentations in the early afternoon that reflect the initial & necessarily rapid inquiries, which are then revised in response to feedback and perhaps ready to share outside the group of participants, b) experiences that motivate participants to continue to pursue self-directed inquiry on this and other topics, and c) stock-taking that helps improve and develop the CE format. Using this format for a day-long workshop means, in brief, that there is an activity together as a group for an hour four times over the course of the day. In between, time is spent in independent research related to the scenario, in conversations, and as participants choose for themselves.

Timetable (subject to adjustment)
9.30 Overview
9.45-10.45 Session 1, Autobiographical intros
10.45-11.45 Initial inquiries
11.45-12.45 Session 2, Focus on Detailed Case Study
12.45-2.30 Lunch in the room, More inquiry, and preparation of Work-in-progress presentations
2.30-3.30 Session 3, Work-in-progress presentations
3.30-4.30 Revision of presentations for public viewing
4.30-5.30 Session 4, Reflect on experience, outcomes, process, next steps

Session 1; Autobiographical intros

Between-session work: Initial thoughts and investigations of the case & posts (using [ask for login info])

Session 2: Focus on Detailed Case Study (read in advance)

Between-session work: More inquiry and posting related to the case. Prepare a work-in-progress (W-I-P) presentation

Session 3: Work-in-progress presentations

Between-session work: more inquiry, revise W-I-P presentation into product (shareable to wider world?), post reflections

Session 4: Five-phase format discussion, to reflect on experience, outcomes, process, next steps. End with Closing Circle:

After session 4 (optional): Participants share products to a wider community