Teaching Philosophy

Learning is…

…not repetition of factual knowledge that can always be found in a book or by using the Almighty Google.  Learning is first knowing how to look; how to see.  Facts one uses frequently will imprint on the memory and remembering is just a form of looking it up.

How to look is just high-level curiosity.  Some of us are naturally curious, in others this trait needs fostering.  Presenting information in multiple ways, from multiple points of view, and in an entertaining manner energizes the student to look.  This gives them a variety of ways to find information and eventually use it for their own ends.  After the knowledge is found, the student seeks…

comprehension, putting factual knowledge in their own words. This is proof that the students are learning how to see.  They are taking the knowledge and interpreting what it means to them.

Comprehension is the synthesis of fact with the experiences of the user.  At first, students can only translate facts from their own, singular viewpoint.  As their understanding broadens, they begin putting their comprehension into different contexts.  Once this occurs, the student graduates to…

application, which is really design.  Design does not require a teacher; it requires a guide.  Guiding is asking questions and encouraging the students to perceive the problem in multiple ways and propose multiple solutions.  Through this process the students find, for themselves, the best solution for their skills, their concept, and their design problem.

The application of knowledge is not the final step in learning.  Often learning ends here, though, because the next part is not only the hardest thing to learn it is the hardest thing to teach.  Once the process is assumed to be complete, you must continue to…

question.  How do you reflect upon your work in order to understand it, and yourself, more fully?  Grasping that you are never done, that an idea is never finished is difficult.  Realizing that you are never done and being at peace with that takes maturity.

After knowledge is found, learning really is the continual and repetitive process of design.  You must understand the facts, refine your understanding, utilize this insight within your project, reflect on that use, and repeat from the beginning using your new experiences.  There will always be more to know, new interpretations to explore.  Your design will never be as good today as you think it will be tomorrow.  Learning really is…

accepting success is not perfection.

As a teacher, I am…

an advocate for design, really an evangelist of design.  I want the students to follow me into the promised land of architecture, interiors and furniture.  I want to get them excited about the field of interior design and all that it has to offer.  People don’t go into design because they want to be rich or because it is easy; they do it because it sparks their passion.  Interior design, for the right person, is addictive.  They can’t wait to get their hands on the next floor plan, they can’t quit thinking about their current project, and they really can’t understand why the other ninety-three percent of the population doesn’t feel the way they do about places.  I want them to know that this fervor for design is real and they need embrace it.

To nurture this passion, I try to teach in an entertaining way.  It keeps them interested and engaged in the moment.  I tell stories, I make jokes, and I jump around a lot.  I once had a student tell me that when I am teaching, I actually become the buildings I am talking about.  This might be the greatest compliment I have ever received, because I want them to leave class excited about the subject, hungry to know more, and equipped with the ability to discover that knowledge.  I can’t do that completely through lecturing, so I am also…

a coach; an aid in their realization of their own potential.  Design is not only about passion, it is about discovery.  It is my role to help students craft their discovery process.  My approach is through analysis of their work.  The best way to describe this is through an example.  Early in their process, I sit down with a student and we look at a collection of bubble diagrams pertaining to spatial organization.  Usually, they did each diagram without thinking of the previous one(s) and have not looked at them as a whole.  We sit down and I have the student point out similarities.  They start to see that they are really drawing the same idea consistently, even if they are approaching the problem from a different direction.  I then start to point out what I call the subconscious messages.  Oftentimes, a student will repeatedly diagram an element of their design in the same way across multiple media and never realize they are doing it.  It helps them realize they have had a strong idea the entire time, they just didn’t know how to communicate it.  I tell them I read drawings like a fortune-teller read palms and all it will take is a little practice for them to recreate this kind of discovery for themselves.  All they need to do is sit back and reflect and see how it all combines to create the big picture.

As they become more experienced, I like to show them different ways to look at the design problem.  How can they question what they already think they know?  A good example of this is having them design a dining room, but instead of calling it a dining room they are to think of it as the room-with-the-largest-horizontal-surface in the house.  The number of activities for the space grows and the supporting furnishings and equipment change to allow for these.  Often, they design a much better and more functional room than if they had focused on formal dining alone.  All they need to do is access their inner explorer.

As a result of my teaching, I want my students to…

obtain the necessary design skills required to practice interior design, of course.  So course content is significant, but I know that they are taking what they’ve learned here into all aspects of their lives and I try to instill the following big picture skills into each of my classes.  The first thing is to…

have passion for what you are doing, whatever it is.  There is always something interesting to find or something new to learn, no matter how insignificant the project/life/world seems or how many times you have repeated it.  A way to do this is to…

always see what you are working on within the context of the big picture.  Everything is a piece within a greater puzzle.  Looking at a project/life/the world this way enables you to not only find meaning in what you are doing, but find a new approach to doing it and unique ways it connects and intertwines with items around it.  Sometimes it is difficult to see the big picture, so they need to…

remember concept is your guide.  We develop design concepts to give focus to our project/life/world.  We constantly refine them to get them to the simplest expression of our idea, and then the application of the concept is what provides the complexity.  Whatever the question, posing it in the context of the concept will always give you the answer.  In order to share this answer with others, you need to know how to…

communicate well.  Getting intent across while keeping all parties engaged is really important, and needs to be done well verbally and visually.  When communication is successful or if it fails, you need to…

take responsibility.  When your project/life/world is successful, make sure people know about it and how you are a part of it.  Conversely, if you screw up the project/life/world – own up to it.  And again, remember…

…success is not perfection.

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