BREAKING THE DISCIPLINARY MOLD: THE NEW PEDAGOGY OF UN-DISCIPLINED PRACTICE FOR APPROACHING WICKED PROBLEMS IN A REAL WORLD
Important problems and opportunities increasingly evade resolution or fulfillment through the approach of a single discipline. Problem based and collaborative pedagogical approaches, while not new, do importantly recognize both the value and limits of disciplinary based knowledge and prepare students to conduct practice and research that engages with significant and complex issues.
Studio based craft education programs have been slow and sometimes resistant to collaborative and problem based pedagogies. This has come from an inherently inward looking perspective, born from the desire to safeguard craft knowledge by roping off the discipline from the interference of “corrupted” practice that may erode core beliefs. This has contributed to establishing an impression of a discipline that can appear out of touch and perhaps out of time.
In this paper we posit that the studio craft and design programs are a location of vitally significant knowledge, important to humanities post-colonial and to post-industrial futures. We argue that if the discipline is to make a contribution to these themes our pedagogical programs require revision if they are to adequately prepare their alumni to conduct a situated and viable practice. We do so through an examination of recent refinements to courses and programs at The Australian National University’s School of Art (ANU SoA). We chart changes as they have occurred, in particular through a case study of the new course ‘Multiples and Production’ (M&P). This is an elective available to the school’s five independent craft and design discipline areas of Ceramics, Furniture, Glass, Gold and Silversmithing, and Textiles.
M&P uses the domestic table as a location and setting for the course. Students are introduced to a field encompassing bespoke and industrial production, sustainability and disposability, and asked one simple and complex question: ‘Why make anything for a world already filled with stuff?’ Leading students through a range of design methodologies and exercises, this course operates outside the usual disciplinary domains by interrogating the way we produce, consume and understand domestic objects. Students engage with sites and traditions (the table), value laden questions (What is the place of sustainability or emotion in design?), new technologies (CAD/CAM manufacture) and engage with industry representatives in live pitching exercises.
We argue that through the collaborative and problem based learning that connects craft to wider circles of significance, a re-directive approach enables the relatively dislocated or marginal knowledge of craft to provide innovative propositions to some of the most salient issues of our time. Ultimately the objective is to provide meaningful platforms that prepare students with strategies and skills to conduct an agile practice in a rapidly changing and complex world.