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BAC Expands Conversation on Design Education

Change Order 2: The Future of Design Education

Change Order 2: The Future of Design Education

Change Order 2: The Future of Design Education

© Boston Architectural College; Photo by Sam Rosenholtz

The Boston Architectural College was pleased to present Change Order 2: The Future of Design Education, a collaborative discussion of assessing learning alongside curricular changes in design education, on February 21 and 22 in Boston, MA. Approximately 120 educators, accreditors, practitioners, and students gathered from across the United States, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, and Mexico for the conference after reviewing white papers prepared to inform the July 2013 ARC Conference, hosted by the NAAB.

Change Order 2 was held to discuss how learning outcomes from Change Order, hosted by the BAC in the winter of 2011 to address questions of how design education could become more multi-disciplinary, client-sensitive and globally-oriented, and to consider how it could best be evaluated. Change Order 2 was able to transcend traditional generalized conference recommendations by beginning to determine whether the collaborative, client-oriented learning proposals emerging could actually make a difference in professional school curricula and in the learning outcomes demonstrated by students.

"Changes in professional design practices are transforming how design schools prepare graduates for the challenges they now face in collaborative work environments," said BAC President Ted Landsmark. "Design knowledge is constantly expanding; change is global in scale, and client-centered design remains in demand. Practitioners and students must keep current, learn from experience as well as from theory, and understand the financial, ethical, legal and public service elements of professional practice."

Throughout the conference, participants proposed ways of making design education more relevant to the technological and economically-challenged design world of the future. They discussed:

  • What the key subjects of discussion might be at the Summer 2013 sexennial Accreditation Review Conference;
  • Whether the number of Student Performance Criteria used to assess learning outcomes could be significantly revised and reduced in number;
  • How integrative, comprehensive design skills can be best assessed;
  • What the evolving role of traditional studio learning might become in collaborative, on-line learning environments; 
  • How to assess design learning in non-traditional, "co-curricular" learning environments outside traditional design firms;
  • How to assess individual contributions and learning outcomes in cross-disciplinary and collaborative learning environments;
  • What the role of MOOC strategies and social media might be for students and continuing education professionals;
  • The balance of classroom, studio, and experiential learning in meeting accreditors' learning outcomes expectations;
  • How international accreditation standards and models with fewer assessment criteria might be applicable to the American system of accrediting programs;
  • How and where design entrepreneurship and risk assessment could be taught;
  • How evidence of an individual student's performance and competency to enter a global design profession could best be assessed;
  • The role of research in student performance criteria;
  • How demographic changes in design's client base may affect what is taught and how students are prepared to serve diverse cultures;
  • How various approaches to accreditation might affect the costs of obtaining a professional design education;
  • Ways of unifying a communications message that the demand for design talent and skill remains strong;
  • The ways in which sustainability, human-centered design, and digital fabrication could be further enhanced in curricula;
  • Interfaces across education, licensure, practice, and life-long learning;
  • The role of aesthetics in design education.

These initial conversations were specifically intended to not reach premature conclusions about the shape and content of design education into the future. CO2 challenged participants to be open-minded and exploratory before refining the conversations' outcomes. Creativity, innovation, discussions of divergent views and common ground, and collegiality flourished as a result.

"2013 is a transformative year for design education, aided by progressive and thoughtful conversations at the BAC's Change Order 2 conference," said Landsmark. "The BAC and NAAB welcome comments on all subjects related to the rapidly evolving future of design education."


Special thanks to: The Maurice F. Childs Lecture Series Fund and the McCluskey Memorial Fund for contributions to support Change Order 2.