Questioning=Thinking: Critical Curiosity as the Focus of an Interior Design Curriculum Redesign

By Ruth Westervelt and Zeke Leonard.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

John Dewey believed that the process of thinking is questioning (1933). With this, a group of educators tasked with the overhaul of a long established interior design program decided, after much discussion, that the focus of the new curriculum would center on one of the great hallmarks of an educated individual—curiosity. With a stated purpose of preparing students for lifelong learning and success, the curriculum redesign bases itself on the goal of nurturing the inherent curiosity in a student. We proceed from the axiom that to cultivate a student’s curiosity is to create an expert learner who, despite a capricious future, can find meaningful ways to stay relevant, and positively impact society. Through research, we found that this approach creates a pathway to other important accessory abilities such as leadership, self-direction, intrinsic motivation, lifelong learning, and of importance to this paper, critical questioning with regard to sustainability.

No professor would deny they encourage their students to pursue their curiosity, but in truth, their teaching habits, classroom structure, assessment and feedback procedures could actually impede a student’s natural inclination. In this paper, we present a general framework for nurturing curiosity that begins with the professor and their core beliefs about their roll in the learning process. It outlines the pedagogical technique for transforming a traditional studio environment into one where Guided Critical Questioning (GCQ) is at the forefront. And finally, we describe the second-year shared experience called Discussion Lab whereby the Sophomore class is split among faculty members to form small discussion groups that grapple with readings and video relevant to sustainability and design. This It-Takes-A-Village approach to the development of the program’s student body supports thoughtful critical questioning through a strategy of formulated prompts from multiple points of view.

Keywords: Education, Interior Design, Environments, Curiosity, Critical Thinking, Inquiry, Pedagogy, Design Thinking, Curriculum Design

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp.35-40. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 902.411KB).

Ruth Westervelt

Assistant Professor, Department of Design, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, USA

Ruth Westervelt is an interior designer and graphic designer. She received her BFA and MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University. She has practiced as an exhibit designer and has been teaching at various institutions in higher education. Currently, Ruth holds the position of Assistant Professor of Interior Design at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York.

Zeke Leonard

Assistant Professor, Department of Design, Syracuse University, USA


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