Prioritizing Our Values: A Case-Study Report that Examines the Efforts of a Group of University-Level, Communication Design Educators to Collectively Construct Inclusive and Equitable Design Teaching Practices in a (Post-) Pandemic Era

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University of Michigan Library

The Value Design Education Pledge was co-developed by the co-authors of this article: Associate Professor Anne H. Berry, Associate Professor Meaghan A. Dee, Assistant Professor Penina Laker, and Associate Professor Rebecca Tegtmeyer, with contributions by Kelly Walters (Assistant Professor, Communication Design, Parsons, The New School, New York City, N.Y., U.S.A.), to develop and promote long-term, inclusive, and equitable teaching practices that could positively affect design education. The pledge was initiated in the wake of events that transpired during the spring and summer of 2020—namely, the COVID-19 global pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests, both of which evolved across the United States during that time. It was also undertaken in recognition of 1) the changes and challenges that evolved as a result of remote and online learning having to be implemented across most U.S.-based, university-level and K-12 design education programs, and 2) the need for pedagogic accountability when decisions have been taken by faculty and administrators to commit to inclusive and equitable teaching practices.

This case study provides an overview of the timeline of events and the decision-making that preceded the development of the pledge, including the first AIGA (the professional association for design, and the primary funder of this journal) Design Educators Community (DEC) virtual roundtable in May 2020 that spawned a draft of actionable items and outcomes from educators (working at K-12, non-traditional, undergraduate, and post-graduate levels) who participated in the pledge initiative. As a key point of planning and emphasis, the Value Design Education Pledge was developed to meet two key goals. The first was to facilitate manageable and sustainable commitments to students and communities for design educators already overburdened by the strain of adapting curricula and the course materials that support them. The second was to encourage remote and online learning in ways that could effectively provide emotional and academic support to design students throughout the progression of the global COVID-19 pandemic and the social, political, and cultural upheavals that accompanied it. The authors research fueled the generation of ideas for further exploration of initiatives that could effectively support these goals, including:developing mechanisms for measuring students’ learning before and after they leave particular classes and programs identifying ways to emphasize that the outcomes of design processes can provide humanistic, tangible, and positively transformative products, services, and systems; and building better mentor models that could be facilitated inside and outside of a variety of types of design classrooms.

While the disciplinary focus of the pledge as it was initially developed was centered on design education, the authors believe that several items and ideas that emerged from operating it can be adapted to benefit education across a broader array of disciplines.

Design education, Inclusive teaching