Fifth Year at Srishti

It’s my 5th year at Srishti and I’m still getting used to. I started with the post graduation studies in Innovation and Experience Design at Srishti Labs in 2013. Later on, I joined Srishti again as a Research assistant and worked in Art in Transit project in 2016. And I have now joined Srishti third time as a full-time faculty member. And this was a choice that I had to make despite Mathscapes and Mimo56 DesignLab since I have always been expressing the problems with scientific/tech. education scenario we have here in India. Now is the chance to do my bit.

2017 marks the true beginning of future that I envision for me. My focus now in Srishti is to get into research driven teaching. I’m assigned to teach two units in this cycle — Interaction Design 1 (with Riyaz Shaikh) for B.Des 2nd/3rd years, and Interaction Design beyond Screens (with Dr.Naveen Bagalkot) for M.Des 2nd years. Both involve unique challenges to deliver the classroom content which also resonates with the problem that I feel is prevalent in the formal education today and aligns with my personal vision.

Conditions that I have set for myself for constructing and delivering content for classes at Srishti are —

  • Not limiting or changing the actual jargons used in the scientific domain.
  • Not to overdo the participative activities — too much fun takes away the seriousness.
  • Not to oversimplify things for the sake of class.
  • To encourage Q&As, and sometimes break the flow of class to discuss things off the plan.

I will elaborate the above points with justifications in another post sometime.

My thoughts on teaching: Easier said than Done.

Most of my understanding of teaching comes from my experience as a student. Thus I think, a useful pedagogical framework not only allows students to learn effectively but also a teacher to simultaneously reflect on his personal practice. I plan and organize the teaching units well in advance. However, I do like to go beyond the scope of learning unit at times. Having taught a variety of subjects (mostly engineering/tech. subjects) in both academic and non-academic settings, I’m learning to teach more effectively.

The most important learning according to me is that no matter how well you plan or anticipate your class, the chances are that it may not interest all students. Not because some may be uninterested, but as a student, some might not be in the right frame of mind to accept the class. It is a teacher’s responsibility to prepare the students to be ready for the class, or they would lose interest sooner or later. I advocate a very systematic and organized way of learning to inhabit discipline as it helps to channelise the focus. Conflict arises as it is unlikely many designers would agree with this statement — the unstructuredness in the design learning that enables the student to open up and think beyond boundaries. It is certainly arguable, but the point I’m trying to make is that it is equally important for the student to also learn the fundamentals while they are in the academic setup at least. Your exploration, however, could be unstructured. I believe a strong foundation is required to experiment. Very close to the previous statement, it should not be confused with teacher imposing his interests on the students but just exposing the students enough for them to see the glimpse of the subject. A teacher should never try to impose his interests on the students consciously.

The design graduates in India are already competing with the engineering graduates and vice versa. As a teacher, it is also necessary to empower the students to sustain themselves in the industry. The future holds for the people who appreciate and understand this dichotomy of making things. My core teaching style comes from here — Connecting purposefully one subject to another (and more often they are either Physics or Mathematics) while ensuring they don’t get intimidated. Some might ask why Mathematics? “Mathematics is the framework for abstraction and logic. It is the language to decode and design.” Besides being my interest, I believe it will empower design students to create more efficiently.

My classes are a mix of theory and hands-on activity, to engage and ensure that the students have a solid takeaway after each class. My teaching principles are —

  • to ensure leveled/plain field, to begin with.
  • to set expectations of my class.
  • to ensure that students understand the basics.
  • to encourage them to ask more questions.
  • to reduce math anxiety.

Apart from teaching, I also want to pursue research in my areas of interest while being in an academic setup. This setup, will not just connect me with students, but also with faculty from other disciplines, which I could leverage for my research. Though I still need to figure about how am I going to balance the academic and research work, so it benefits each other. Also, some of my thoughts here might appear naive as I’m just beginning and I will become more critical over time. The process of reflection that I have now might change in future as I progress.

Notes.

  1. Review and Suggestions by Swati Sharma.

Mapping my life

As a part of Master class on Mapping our lives at Srishti, we were asked to create a work with given materials that somehow connects to our lives. I had a choice of an array of materials to choose from, to make my work. I gave a thought about my life and came with a very minimalistic idea to depict the number of peoples who have influenced me in one or other way. I chose to draw a lot of hands which symbolized the idea of many people blessing me. The very idea of this work comes from the fact that I’m not only living my life, instead, it is a blend of many other lives, the lives of all the peoples who have influenced me, my parents, my friends, my teachers who always supported me despite any kind of situation. The canvas is symbolizing myself who is fortunate enough to receive the blessings from all the people.

tumblr_inline_mqpivnj4Gl1qz4rgp.png

The workshop was very engaging and helped me thinking out of the box in a limited duration of time. I explored the vitality of a concept which is so essential to execute. The choice of materials is another factor which highly differentiated one from another. I liked the idea of giving the same task to the whole bunch of participants and then explore how everyone has come up with their own perceptions and ideas to represent their lives. More than doing by self, I was more keen to observe the methodologies that others would adopt while working. I learned the importance of both, the foundation of the strong idea and its execution. Many people do get a good idea but fail to express because of lack of proper execution of their idea. The best comes when an artist is able to articulate his original idea through his piece of work, which is only possible when it is executed properly. I rate myself with not so good ideas and fairly good execution of ideas. This workshop also gave me chance to put my work in front of other peoples which in turn brought a lot of appraisals and criticisms, which is a very important tool to evolve as an artist. I would seriously consider myself to give thoughts on each criticism which will help me improve.

Why Reflective Practices are Important?

Reflective Practice is something that empowers the practitioner to express his works through words. I will begin with my understanding of Reflection and then the history of reflection. I will finish by summing up the importance of reflective practices.

By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.Confucius

While on working, I never really reflected on my works. To be true, I never even knew that something called Reflection exists or I would have even disregarded its need if I got to know this before. This is just the right time I have been introduced to the Reflective Practices. Although I never understood its importance before, I’m learning its significance now and would definitely like to explore how it can benefit me in growing in a better artist.

Not much ago, I attended the Day 1 of Reflective Practices class at Srishti, and the instructor began with asking everyone’s perception about Reflection. It was then I realised how different everyone is from each other. Interestingly, everyone has different thoughts about reflection and all of them seemed true to me. This made extremely difficult for me to define what precisely is reflection.

Reflection is a process of critically analysing own work and expressing every minute thing from the piece of work into words. Every artist tends to like his work and thus it makes really difficult to critically analyse own work rather than other’s work. Reflection also helps the practitioner discover their reactions and actions, mistakes then often commit and henceforth, help them learn from their mistakes. One can never become a master of something overnight, the understanding deepens with constant practice and curiosity over time. Reflection ensures our the correctness of our thought process since we can always look at our previous reflections and understand why we only chose this over that. Reflection can also act as a parameter to measure one’s growth over the time. A Practitioner must be unbiased when he writes reflection so that he can reveal his true.

Let me now go into the past and see how reflective practices itself evolved over the time. The reflection did exist from a long time back but it was Donald Schön who first introduced it in his book The Reflective Practitioner in 1983. There are several models of reflective practices by many theorists and I will take a dip into each one by one. The first such model was believed to be by Argyris and Schön in 1978. They pioneered the idea of single and double loop learning. In the single loop learning, the practitioner continues to rely on same strategies even after occurrence of an error whereas the practitioner modifies his strategies or techniques in the double loop learning. Another such model was developed by Kolb in 1975 who highlighted the concept of experimental learning and the transformation of information into knowledge. The next one is by Gibbsin 1988 who did structured debriefing to facilitate Kolb’s Experimental Learning Cycle. Gibbs’s structure included initial experience, description, feeling, evaluation, analysis, conclusion (general and specific) and the personal action plan. In 1995, John structured the model to gain greater understanding with act of sharing with a colleague or mentor. Another leap was taken by Brookefield in 1998 when he proposed a model which research assumptions by looking from 4 lens, they are – the lens of their autobiography of learners of reflective practice, the lens of colleague’s perception, the lens of learner’s eye, the lens of theoretical, philosophical and research literature. In 2001, Rolfe formulated a model based on a simple cycle of 3 questions – What?, So what? and Now what?

Reflective practice brings a self-awareness in the practitioner about what he is doing which in turns help him to improve over the time. The practitioner also assumes responsibility for his own learning and develop thinking skills for enquiry. It helps one to understand his strengths and weaknesses. It will also help to know the areas where one thinks he is weak. Besides reflection by oneself, reflective practices also enables others to look at the reflection and suggest their views on our work. To sum it up, Reflective practice can be defined as thinking and evaluating what a practitioner do and ask others to look at his reflection to point out suggestions to help him improve. Be it be a artist or not, Reflective practices are extremely useful and one should definitely consider doing it.

References:

[1] UCD Dublin Teaching and Resource on Reflective Practices
[2] Wikipedia Article on Reflective Practices