The mixing and matching of interrelated courses provide for a dynamic teaching and learning experience that transcends conventions
I am a lecturer by day and a designer by night (and every other weekend). I design, create and re-make daily, be it while lounging at a café or in my sleep.
A little over two years ago, I joined the Department of Art and Design at Sunway University as Lecturer and now serve as Programme Leader of the BA (Hons) Design Communication programme. Through the encouragement and guidance from my Head of Department Augustine Wong, I have begun embedding local and overseas study trips into my teaching plans to encourage learning through active exploration.
These research-based trips are arranged to maximise students’ experiences and compel them to absorb new sights, sounds, smells, visual cues, cultures and identities. Students’ findings, explorations and inspiration will then be funnelled into the creation of their final project.
Cross-module assessments are another means of encouraging exploration in learning. I work closely with my colleagues to identify suitable groups of courses, known as modules, to be combined in cross-module assessments.
Throughout the last few semesters, we have identified several Art and Design modules that work well in combination such as Packaging in Graphic Design, Digital Illustration, Design and Typography, Digital Storytelling, 2D Principles of Animation, History of Art and Design, and Computer Graphics.
Each cross-module assessment plan starts with a Programme Alignment Meeting where lecturers discuss the possibilities of module combinations and establish visions for each module included. Lecturers will then plan and determine the project briefs for each module, which would require students to reflect upon their time away on study trips and amalgamate all their learning outcomes throughout the semester.
For example, by combining the Packaging in Graphic Design, Digital Illustration, and Design and Typography modules, my colleagues and I will look into the intended learning outcomes for each module to determine a suitable cross-module final project for students to work on.
In this instance, the learning outcome for the Packaging in Graphic Design module is to create an effective and imaginative packaging that acts as a visual communication between creators and consumers. In the Digital Illustration module, students are to create an impactful and meaningful packaging that will stand out in the market, while the Design and Typography module requires students to create a brand identity that is suitable for the product contained within the packaging.
Together, the three modules scaffold one another towards building and designing an end product that is structurally sound, visually pleasing and recognisable to the intended audience.
The final presentation and assessment of cross-module final projects are conducted in one venue. Students showcase their project outcomes and their process books (which document the students’ research and experimentation journey) to their peers, module lecturers and second markers.
External assessors, usually industry practitioners, are also invited to the final presentation to give feedback and recommendations to both students and lecturers. Each module is assessed separately during the presentation, ensuring that the learning outcome of each module satisfies the necessary standards.
The cross-module assessments that my colleagues and I practise enable students to focus and work on one main research area, and produce a variety of design output that meets the requirements of multiple modules. This practice increases productivity, helps students manage their time better and, most importantly, inspires students to design and create more thoughtful and innovative output.
The pride in which students feel when they present their final projects can further enhance their learning experience.
While emphasis is often placed on the visual merits of an artistic output, due diligence is also paid to the students’ process of design exploration.
The exploration may be that of a broader cultural scope of a particular design, its intended audience and source of inspiration. In delving into the process, students can immerse themselves in a holistic design experience and participate in responsible social and cultural discourse.
The planning and practice of crossmodule assessments can inestimably benefit both students and lecturers. Students can gain different opinions and advice from lecturers of varying expertise during collective tutorial sessions, while lecturers can grow closer with each other through communication and collaboration at the assessment planning and execution stages.
I like to think of myself as a collaborator with my students, whom I view as my future colleagues. I firmly believe that teaching is a continual learning process and, much like the role of a designer in any field, I never stop developing and improving myself.
I take pride in what I do as a lecturer and designer, and more than a quarter of a century on, my love for my career continues stronger than ever.
School of Arts
This article appeared in Spotlight on Teaching (Volume 1)