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Pedagogy Foundation Programs page 4

 
 

Foundations Within the Discipline
Beginning in the 1950s, schools relied on two-year preliminary general program of studies, allowing the last two years for concentration in a major. During the 1960s, general interdisciplinary studies were reduced to one year. To a great extent, because of the weakness of first year Foundations, most programs relied on a second year of theoretical studies within the discipline. So there were still only two years left for practical education in the major. By moving the first year program into the major, it is conceivable to add one additional year to practical studies. However, to be effective there must be restricted enrollment, ideally two sections, experienced faculty who share a common educational philosophy and a sound program of study. This is perhaps the most ideal solution for design programs.

There are a few institutions that accept students into the major in the Freshman year. Perhaps the best known is the School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University. The School accepts about forty-five students each year into the Freshman design program where they are divided into two sections.

At the time I was there (1977-1983), the program was divided into drawing, two- and three-dimensional design, color with a one hour orientation class. Color sections rotated at the end of the first semester and all other courses continued. All instructors were full-time tenured or tenure track faculty. There was fixed space allocated to the program. The program was highly effective and added another year to practical studies in design. I would expect the program has changed by now.

Entry Into the Major
Most majors conduct a second year of basic studies within the context of the discipline. It is at this point that screening occurs and enrollment is limited at many, but certainly not at all, institutions. The criteria for screening applicants into the major varies greatly from program to program. Some rely entirely on SAT scores or class ranking, others on some combination of portfolios, reviews, testing, and one even requires a four hundred word essay on why they should be admitted.

Many programs rely on a relatively open enrollment and selective retention, and perhaps this is the single most reliable process for identifying students suitable for the program. The composition of accepted students is not based on any intrinsic abilities of students, but rather it is shaped by the values of the people making the selection. Consequently, a student accepted into one program might be rejected by another one.

I have tried all the above mentioned procedures for evaluating students and none of them were any more reliable than another. My best clue as to who would be a good student was to find work in the portfolio that took a great deal of time and effort to do. My favorite was a large crow-quill pen and ink drawing. To find a quantity of work in the portfolio done outside of school was usually an indication of student commitment.

Survey
A short survey was made of twenty eight students in the current Sophomore Visual Communications class. They had gone through a multi-section entry level foundations program in the School of Design At Arizona State University. A rough approximation is that there were 8 to 10 sections with 20 students in a section. The program was a general foundations for Industrial, Graphic and Interior Design. It was taught by a combination of instructors and graduate students from the three different disciplines.

While there is nothing from the survey that can be considered definitive, it is revealing as to how students perceive their educational experience in the Freshman year. At the end of the year, roughly 90 students from Foundations applied to the Visual Communications program and 38 were accepted. They submitted a test and portfolio.

One faculty member from Visual Communications assigned to Foundations was perhaps the most experienced and capable instructor on the foundations faculty. It is interesting to note that of the twenty six students from the class surveyed, 57% were from that teacher's section. Because of the high number of students from that section, it will be reflected in the overall percentage of responses to survey questions.

This begs the question that in accepting students into the major, is it possible that students with lesser ability coming from a strong section might look better than a student with more ability coming from a weak section?

Results of the Survey

1
How would you rate what and how much you learned in the Foundations program on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being high? Answers: 1 - 4 (25 %), 5 (7 %), 6-10 (68 %)

2
Within a multi-section design program, was it your experience/observation that the educational quality for sections was: extremely unequal (44 %), reasonably equal (54 %), equal (1 %)

3
Where do you feel instructors placed emphasis? Answers: problem objectives (39 %), what it looked like (32 %), work done on time (28 %)

4
What do you feel contributes most to learning? Answers: program of study
(7 %), quality of teachers (89 %), space/facilities (3 %)

* Percentages were not carried out to the decimal point.

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