Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Merging Graphics - A proposed way forward

It is operationally essential that we merge the two sections of the department of Graphic Design across the two campuses.

Meanwhile we also have to consider the re-design of all our curricula to be in keeping with the Higher Education Qualifications Framework.

I Believe that this gives us a unique opportunity to be pro-active in how we design for the future of Design in Higher Education.

What is at stake here is much more than just "harmonising" what we are doing in Cape Town and Bellville. What we should do, is take a fresh look from the start at what it is that we are doing. Moreover we should do this completely independently from what we are doing now. We should start with an entirely fresh third-party perspective.

We should be approaching this process in two phases. Phase 1 will determine what we are going to teach and phase 2 will be about how we are going to teach it.

Phase 1

I recently attended a DACUM curriculum design workshop arranged by Fundani. Dacum is Canadian-developed process widely used by the vocational education sector to determine what it is that experts in a specific field actually do. Check out the Dacum Website to get more details.

What it boils down to is this: We get in an outside facilitator and we invite actual industry expert practitioners. The outside facilitator then actively debriefs the actual industry practitioners to determine the Key Performance Areas in which they work. Then they go on to populate the expertise required to function in those areas. The end product of a Dacum exercise is a Task Chart, that tells us exactly which tasks are done by expert workers, and to what level of competency they need to do this. Selected lecturers take part in a Dacum exercise, but only as observers. They sit at the back, and may communicate with the facilitator in writing. In this way the process remais objective, but on track. The purpose of the Dacum chart is for us to know exactly what industry expects of us. We therefore know what our third-year student should look like, and based on that, we can determine what we should be giving the first-year student.

Once we have the results of the Dacum, we as a unified department need to consider all the other variables. Here we ask questions such as

  1. What do other institutions offer internationally, nationally and locally?
  2. What are the uniqe shortcomings of our own incoming students that need to be worked on before we even get to the Dacum?
  3. What are the deeper core skills and values that we want to instill in our students that are not covered by the Dacum.

Once we have exhaustes those questions, we break the field down into its logical components, and specify specific learning outcomes, as well as critical cross-field outcomes.

Then we suggest content and exercises that may be required to reach those outcomes.

Only then do we go back to our original Cape Town and Bellville curricula, and then only to determine if there is anything that we left out. It is essential that, throughout the initial process we ignore and even actively reject our current curricula, otherwise they will interfere with the process of innovation. We know that we will re-visit them at the end, thus we must not allow them to cloud our thinking at the beginning.

The deliverable at the end of Phase 1 will be a Study Guide.

I envisage that Phase 1 will take the greater part of the second semester.

Phase 2

Once we know what we are going to teach, we need to decide how we are going to teach it.

Here is where we will then do an analysis of our own individual strengths and weaknesses, and finally take a look at the possibilities and constraints. The idea is to build on our collective strenghts, and to work our way around the constraints. Remember, at this stage we will have just one curriculum. Thus there will be no question of "Belville stuff" and "Cape Town" stuff. It will all be new stuff, and we then need to make the best match between what we need and what we have.

I am hoping that, by the end of the year, we will at least have an in-principle agreement upon what it is that we will be doing where. I know that there is a great deal of discomfort with some of you about "busing students between Cape Town and Belville" and "dealing with time table clashses". There is no need to concern ourselves with these questions at this stage, because we still have no idea what it is that we want to teach, or how we want to teach it. This it would be silly to worry about where we want to teach it.

I must tell you that I am very excited about what we are about to undertake. I must also say that I am very optimistic about the outcome. I trust in your professionalism and creativity, but also, it has been my experience that in this Faculty, if we give it time and space, things tend to fall into place almost automatically.


I am really concerned by the lack of response I get from my blog. It could be because you are shy to post here, or that you simply don't know how. So, feel free to contact me directly via Groupwise if you wish to discuss your concerns.


knowtoneed said...

Greetings all. This is a fantastic use of the digital medium for discussion. I would like to discuss the digital requirements (or track) as soon as possible. There are some resources available on the web as guides. These should provide an international perspective of what is happening on the global scene. Johan C are you still handling digital Bellville side? See you soon. Wayne

Bruce said...

Hi Johannes - yes this is the kind of approach that many of us have been talking about and it is encouraging to see you engaging with the issue holistically.
To start the process with industry input is going to be very interesting and will add significantly to what we garner from our existing advisory procedures. I also look forward to incorporating the findings of staff who are doing research in the area of student/industry relations.

In the phase 2 you say "I am hoping that, by the end of the year, we will at least have an in-principle agreement upon what it is that we will be doing where" and then you say "There is no need to concern ourselves with these questions at this stage, because we still have no idea what it is that we want to teach, or how we want to teach it. This it would be silly to worry about where we want to teach it."
Does 'at this stage' mean phase 1 ie next semester?
There seems to be a contradiction when you say that we need to know where we are teaching what and then you say it would be silly to worry about where we are teaching.
If i am interpreting you correctly I agree that we should be carefully looking at content harmonisation and methodology harmonisation in phase 1 leading up to Jan 2009. The actual roll out of and offering of an integrated first year experience to students will then happen in 2010.

Bruce Snaddon