Developing Design Curriculum Assessment Goals and Student Learning Outcomes; A Case Study: Typography

Walk through the process of project creation to meet learning outcomes, evaluation of success, and mapping outcomes to student learning.

Andrea Hempstead
Assistant Professor
Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi

No matter your design school pedagogy, the need for defined and executed assessment and student learning outcomes is important for institutional and programmatic accreditation. This can seem a daunting task for most educators, and particularly so for those teaching in creative disciplines. When academics hear “assessment” and “learning outcomes” they often become angry. This anger, is often fueled by fear that the “institution” is trying to control classrooms, or worse, justify teaching positions and approaches. Ultimately, these institutional measures have the best interests of the student at heart. Done correctly, assessment and defined student learning outcomes help to guide instructors to create and revise curriculum to meet student needs and are flexible enough to allow for unique classroom experiences.

Assessment models favor a tiered approach to learning. Typically, there are touch points throughout curriculum where student learning outcomes are introduced, reinforced and mastered. Ideally, outcomes are not addressed solely in one course, but built upon as the student learns and progresses through the program. Once developed and implemented, these learning outcomes can be assessed to evaluate where student learning could be improved, but also can reinforce successes and program strengths. Additionally, program assessments can serve as documentation to reinforce the need for program funding to improve areas of weakness. Assessment documents can serve as justification for improved facilities, software purchases or even faculty lines.

This case study walks through the process of project creation and implementation to meet course student learning outcomes, evaluation of student success regarding course outcomes, and mapping these outcomes to how program student learning outcomes are introduced, reinforced and mastered. Assessment of the project includes analyzing student course outcomes and progression of overall program student learning.

Facilitating a Culture that Celebrates Experimentation and Addresses the Fear of Failure through Assessment

Alex Girard
Assistant Professor
Graphic Design
Art Department
Southern Connecticut State University

At Southern Connecticut State University, it has been observed that students pursuing a design degree are entering the program with a background dominated by a philosophy in which success equals providing a pre-defined, correct answer to a problem. This approach does not prepare students for a design process in which experimentation is paramount, as there is no singular correct answer to a given design problem.

The test-taking model of assessment assumes that information is disseminated by the instructor, retained by the student, and then recalled during a test. In this model, correct answers are consistent across submissions; it does not allow for the synthesis of something new, which is key to a successful design solution. Further, students in this process are often creatively crippled by fear of failure, as failure will negatively impact their final grade. Applying this philosophy of a singular correct answer, students are hesitant to embrace a process that encourages the exploration of ideas with multiple solutions.

While parameters guide a design project, end results are not measured against a pre-defined, correct design solution. In theory, each solution has the potential to be vastly different from another, yet still successful. Developing an assessment model that reinforces this process of experimentation with multiple solutions can be challenging for an instructor.

This presentation outlines a response to the perceived disconnect between the academic background of incoming students and the process required to achieve a successful design solution, utilizing an alternative project assessment model at Southern Connecticut State University. While this assessment model was applied in a limited context, positive results were immediately apparent and lasting; most notably, a marked increase in student experimentation with multiple solutions was observed.