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Improvisational Teaching and Open-Source Syllabus Development

Dr Ronald Kander | Philadelphia University

Improvisational Teaching and Open-Source Syllabus Development

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"Surface Imaging" is an exciting new trans-disciplinary design discipline that focuses on creating imagery in various physical forms using a variety of digital printing technologies, including direct surface imaging on porous and non-porous substrates and fabrication printing through material deposition and subtraction printing technologies. This presentation describes the development of a new materials science course to serve design students in a new "Surface Imaging" masters program. The course delivers the basics of materials science, with an emphasis on the mechanical and physical properties of porous and non-porous substrates and polymer-based ink and dye solution chemistry. The audience for this course is graduate design students with little or no materials science background. In the process of developing a new course for a new discipline, it became apparent that a new pedagogical approach was required. Instead of assuming that I knew what these students needed to learn about materials, about two-thirds of the syllabus was left "empty" at the beginning of the semester. The students were asked to research the impact of materials in the new discipline and develop a list of materials-related things they needed to learn. This "open source" approach meant that I did not know what I would be teaching in any given week. With a few days notice, I agreed to "improvise" the classroom experience (lectures, demonstrations, projects, etc.) based on the topics that the students identified as important to their education. To some extent, I felt like an improvisational comic on stage at a nightclub --- a simultaneously frightening and exhilarating teaching experience. This presentation will review the advantages and disadvantages of using open-source syllabus development and just-in-time improvisational teaching techniques, and discuss the impact these techniques had on student learning outcomes and the knowledge, skills and abilities that were developed in these graduate design students.