Full Circle: Balancing the Knowledge Equilibrium between Newly-Enrolled Design Students and their Design School

DS 69: Proceedings of E&PDE 2011, the 13th International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education, London, UK, 08.-09.09.2011

Year: 2011
Editor: Kovacevic, Ahmed, Ion, William, McMahon, Chris, Buck, Lyndon and Hogarth, Peter
Author: Ghassan, Aysar
Series: E&PDE
Section: Pedagogy
Page(s): 257-262


This paper describes a recent project which was carried out at a design school situated within a UK university. Research suggests that many undergraduates come to university without being prepared for the intellectual journey ahead and are uncertain as to what tutors expected of them [1]. It is also thought that the complexities associated with higher education mean that students no longer know what a degree programme is [1]. This lack of knowledge is a contributing factor to the anxiety experienced by newly enrolled first years [2]. A more equal distribution of knowledge has been shown to engender an adult-adult relationship between protagonists and helps create a “mutuality of participation” between them [3]. As part of their remit, design departments within universities are concerned with adult learning, the process where adult professionals are employed to teach adult students. The movement towards an adult-adult relationship between ‘the university’ and ‘the student’ can be facilitated through creating an environment where ‘knowing’ can be more equally distributed. The project described in this paper was developed for newly-enrolled first year design undergraduates. It makes use of a ‘vehicle’ publication named ‘Full Circle’ [4] which contains input from students, tutors and alumni associated with the 3D Curriculum at the School of Design. At the beginning of an incoming undergraduate’s journey, the knowledge balance in the university-student relationship is shifted towards the institution, both in terms of subject-specific and person-specific knowledge. The aim of this project is to move towards facilitating a balance to the university-student relationship by providing students with knowledge that goes over and above that given in the usual induction events, such as those related to using the library and the health and safety protocols in workshop. Initial results have shown that this knowledge has been important in broadening newly enrolled students' outlook, providing further context to their degree programme, providing inspiration, encouraging a sense of independence and reducing anxiety and engendering a sense of belonging at a time when there is a loss of status and a feeling of “start[ing] with nothing knowing nobody.” [2]


[1] Roberts, J and Crook, M .1996. Promoting Skilled Studying: attitudes and orientations to study of First and Second Year students on a Modular Degree Programme. University of Wolverhampton, Educational Research Unit,

[2] Earwaker, J. 1992. Helping and Supporting Students. SRHE & Open University Press

[3] Goodyear Smith. F, Buetow, S. Power Issues in the Doctor-Patient Relationship. 2001, Health Care Analysis 9: p449-p462. Kluwer Academic Publishers. Netherlands

[4] 3D Academic Group. 2009. Full Circle. Aysar Ghassan (ed). School of Design, Northumbria University. ISBN 978 0 9549587 3 2

Keywords: Design Pedagogy, Knowledge distribution, Anxiety, Inspiring students.


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