Three primary elements for evaluating the strength of a program are pedagogy, faculty, and resources. Pedagogy is, of course, the most difficult to gauge for visitors; however, its mix of philosophy, technique, and sense of “mysticism” are the engine that drives faculty engagement and calls for the resources. A particular program’s pedagogy is developed over time, consequently exhibiting a sense of time proven thought. If the program’s pedagogy is changing with societal, personal , or professional trends, then the student gets the message that design decisions are whimsical and personal, lacking professional depth of thought. The “mysticism” refers to the many aspects of a pedagogy that are understood in time and practice and not necessarily revealed in sound bites or 30 words-or-less mission statements. A pedagogical base is the essential glue that holds the faculty together. It doesn’t imply that each faculty member is teaching the same content or even in the same way, but rather forms a unifying foundation for them to reach from. The analogy to a building’s foundation is not accidental; strength in belief and intent is the stabilizing component in turbulent and difficult times.
–A. J. Davis, “Making Choices: Evaluating Qualities Of A Design Education,” www.di.net, November, 2005.
When it comes to choosing a life path, you should do what you love – because if you don’t love it, you are unlikely to work hard enough to get very good. Most people naturally don’t like to do things they aren’t ‘good’ at. So they often give up, telling themselves they simply don’t possess the talent for math or skiing or the violin. But what they really lack is the desire to be good and to undertake the deliberate practice that would make them better…. Deliberate practice entails more than simply repeating a task – playing a C-minor scale 100 times, for instance, or hitting tennis serves until your shoulder pops out of its socket. Rather, it involves setting specific goals, obtaining immediate feedback and concentrating as much on technique as on outcome.
–Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers (Little, Brown and Company, 2008)
As much as possible, learning should be fun. Yet that fun should not be shallow or trivial. It should lead to the deep joyfulness of mastery. That’s a road that’s difficult and in some ways mysterious, in that the “getting there” always resists a complete articulation. The teacher is one who must often say, “you’ll have to work hard and find out for yourself.” That said, the teacher must also, in ways unique to his or her discipline but also united by a common concern for the student’s ultimate flourishing, encourage the student to discern and undertake that difficult journey.
Information and communication technologies can spread that encouragement and deepen the mysterious joys of discovery and mastery, but the digital age requires no less commitment and hard work than the ages preceding it. Done well, to the utmost of our rapidly expanding abilities, the digital age may require even more courage, more sustained effort. “Mastery” in the digital age must engage both depth and breadth, as never before.
The following resources consider pedagogy, faculty, and resources from the perspectives of organizational structures and instructional paradigms, respectively.