My broad personal definition of a successful teacher is one who lives their subject area. An extended formal definition might be “one who uses individualized approaches that engage the learner in evaluating, synthesizing and applying a body of knowledge and its related processes.” Design is a way of life. Designers are committed to looking, thinking, doing. A successful teacher of design conveys this commitment to their students and creates a classroom environment that is caring, compassionate, and encouraging of creativity—yet challenges students to be critical thinkers. The best teachers sincerely convey their energy and enthusiasm for the subject area, engaging and inspiring the learner to become an active participant while being themselves. A great teacher is organized and prepared to recognize opportunities for learning success. These, then are my goals with regard to teaching.
In the context of a pre-professional BFA program, I believe a successful teacher is more than an art director of the classroom but someone who encourages the student to discover and employ their personal and unique sensibilities within the context of client-based graphic design. I believe strong designers have a strong sense of personal identity. A good teacher of design facilitates the development of that identity. I understand that I often influence unexpected parts of my students lives. So I work to be an individual example of order and vision, and to acknowledge everyone’s spiritual sensibilities.
I strive to emulate these characteristics in my own teaching. I actively search for the most effective strategies for teaching, and incorporate them in my courses. I have had much success with experiential learning approaches where I become more a facilitator of learning than simply a provider of knowledge. Students develop their ideas best through interaction, discussion, and reflection. I realize that each learner is different—the facilitator must acquire as many approaches and techniques as possible to stimulate motivation and meaningful learning. Ideally, the student has internalized the process of inquiry so that they are no longer externally motivated and continue educate themselves.
The basic principles of design I teach should not be limited to a specific media, tool or history. For this reason, I try to maintain a global perspective of graphic design. As a instructor of graphic design, I am obligated to remain current in the technology associated with my practice. I acknowledge that the computer is now the primary tool of graphic design. Though design is characterized by deadlines and irrevocable end products, designers must not lose their commitment to process. Teachers impart the importance of process to students by example. Drawing is still vitally important in that it provides a permanent record of process and conceptualization. Learning goals should be determined by authentic tasks (experiential learning). Processes of learning should be modeled and coached for students creatively and with spontaneity, and I strive to make my creative activity and research reflect a commitment to life-long-learning. Lastly, students should be strengthened by being enabled construct multiple solutions to problems or develop several perspectives on an issue. This philosophy reflects the approaches I use in course construction, delivery, and evaluation.