Monday, February 11, 2008

Education City in the NYTimes again!

Today's NYTImes featured another article on Qatar's Education City and included extensive quotes from CMU-Q students and faculty.

CMU-Q's Dean Chuck Thorpe points out that students in this country hadn't been challenged with critical thinking questions before or were hesitant to criticize. I had also read something similar in 'Understanding Arabs' by Margaret K. Nydell prior to my arrival in Qatar. After meeting with the language and academic resource staff at our new faculty- orientation at the start of the semester, I wondered and worried how my students would respond to the critique-style classes. Would they speak up? Would they think I was being too mean? Would they criticize each other's work? How would they move beyond 'I think it's nice'? Or would I spend a lot of time talking to myself and them staring at me? 

I pleased to say it hasn't been like that at all. They challenge my response. They have responses different from each other. We focus on the work rather than the person. I stress the critiques are to improve the work and that feedback is critical to creating better work. 'Ask others. Ask your peers. Try it out. See what happens.' 

They had an assignment due today and the final revisions and process book of their work due Wednesday- I'll post the better solutions later this week. We had a quick critique before moving on to discussing categories and hierarchy and I found them animated, opinionated, critical and encouraging. They were able to critically evaluate the effectiveness of the design solutions and weren't immediately seduced by software filters and tricks. They've begun to learn to edit, to limit the number of bells and whistles they employ. And some of them have done some really great work.

I realize I've fallen into the what I previously perceived as the annoying design professor trait of giving feedback without really answering the question, 'What should I do Professor?'. I don't tell them outright what they should do; I provide insight, suggestions, and alternative ways of approaching the problem. I do offer more software assistance than I ever received in college and I've found it helpful to keep print out of Adobe Illustrator and Indesign tool menu handy. I believe design software is a tool but can also be a hindrance. Especially when one is learning the software for the first time, one tends to create designs that one knows how to execute on the computer. By offering software assistance, I can help them focus on creating a better design than fretting about how they will create what they envision. Classical design education and software skills need to go hand in hand, something that I eventually realized over my own undergrad design education. 

1 comment:

  1. at least you don't channel EA and just tell them to "use a sheet of trace."

    miss you. oxoxox