Design is a subject that most students have not taken before grade 6. In MYP, middle school students get a chance to experience a new subject that is challenging but also rewarding. Although the subject utilizes subject knowledge from other subjects such as art, mathematics, science and English, these skills are being used in a way most students have not done before. Design focuses on problem solving, creativity, innovation and communication through the practice of project-based learning. Project- based learning means that students are working on a small number of large projects throughout the year rather than many smaller tasks. Doing tasks in this way requires students to practice time management, organization, goal setting and planning. These skills are at the core of design learning and are important transitional skills for many areas of life.
An IB design project is broken into four criteria.
1. Research and Analysis- Students identify a problem and begin to collect information to help solve this problem in a way that best suits the needs of a target audience.
2. Developing Ideas- Students use the researched information to begin creating solutions, this stage will usually involve drawings to visually communicate their ideas.
3. Creating the Solution- Students will choose their best solution and create a physical or digital product, following a plan and set of standards/requirements they set for themselves.
4. Evaluating- Now that students have a product to test, they begin to evaluate how successful their design is at solving the identified problem. Based on the results of their testing, they can identify what changes need to be made to the current design, or how they can reiterate an improved version.
Over the course of these criteria steps, students will have learned and practiced research and ICT skills, ideation sketching, technical drawing and rendering skills, physical model making with a variety of materials and machinery/tools and documentation of the entire process.
As we are constantly surrounded by design in our everyday lives, so it is a subject we can all connect with. Although design is a subject that students only have access to for a short period of their school lives, it is a memorable one that gives them a chance to take away tangible products they can keep and use at home, and skills they can use for life.
“An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail” – Dr. Edwin Land
Please introduce yourself briefly.
I am Patrick from Adelaide, South Australia. I lived in Adelaide my entire life with my four brothers, mum, and dad, before moving to Suzhou.
I studied a Bachelor of Industrial Design at the University of South Australia for four years and have worked in many different occupations since I was 15, including swimming instruction, sales, hospitality, media + design, photography and music.
What would you like to do at your leisure time?
In my leisure time I like to listen to and play music and write my own songs. I play guitar, drums, bass guitar and sing. It’s important for me to keep active, so I play badminton, tennis, golf and do outdoor activities as much as I can. I really enjoy indoor activities like watching good movies, playing board games and talking to my friends about common interests.
Do you have any experience or insight to share for living in Suzhou and China?
I’ve lived in Suzhou for six years, initially coming here in 2016 to visit family and see more of the world. I ended up finding China a fascinating and challenging place, so decided I would live and work here. I have seen many different parts of China now and met many new friends, both foreigners and locals. I feel I have found a second home and a second family in Suzhou
If you could be in any musical or movie or a book character, what would it be? Why?
I would be Forest Gump. He lives a colorful life filled with many different experiences, meets influential people, effortlessly achieves wealth, fame and success, and brings happiness to all around him. He does all of this while blissfully ignorant and only focused on the core things in life that really matter to him, family, friends, and love.
What made you to become a Design Teacher?
I studied Product Design in university because I loved to problem solve, draw cool products and thought being designer would be a fun job. When I came to China I focused on teaching and found a passion for it. When the opportunity of joining these two areas of my life together came, it was an easy decision.
How do students perform in your class?
The experience level, interests and abilities of my students are really varied and so is the content of design projects. So, student performance is also varied. Design is a unique MYP subject in that most students have no previous learning experiences of it, making it a challenging subject. Sometimes I am amazed at what students can create in their design projects but my focus is to give students the basic skills to create the best possible products they can make. This is a slow process, but I see so many of the students I taught last year have progressed in confidence and understanding and look forward to seeing what they will make this year.
How is your teaching and working experience so far at OCAC?
It has been challenging and informative. I have learned a lot and gained a lot of new experience/understanding.OCAC has given me a chance to teach something I love and hopefully share that love of design with my students. It’s nice to have my own workshop to build products and have freedom with building the design course within the IB framework. IB design is very closely connected to the standard design approach, so I am lucky to teach design at an IB school.
Teaching and Learning Focused
Why do you think it is important for students to learn design?
Design gives students an opportunity to practice skills that don’t often practice and do it in an active and interesting way. Creative problem solving, innovating, reiterating, quality researching, time management and consistent communication are all areas students struggle with and this is a sign that they don’t practice these skills enough. Design creates situations where all these skills are necessary for success.
Aside from this, it’s a class where students can use machinery to physically make an idea that started in their heads. I think all students enjoy this part of the process a lot.
What approaches have you used to enrich the learning experience of the students? Why?
I have tried hard to create a personal connection with all my students and understand life from their perspectives whenever possible. This helps me to create better projects for them, build a sense community and trust within my classroom and create a better learning culture in lessons.
I am often thinking of experimental approaches to teaching and class management and recently have used the IB Design cycle/design thinking to improve the learning environment of my class groups.
Do you have any advice for the OCAC middle school students in design?
The first thing is to have self-belief, even if it feels like a lie. We all start at somewhere and it’s okay to not be perfect at something straight away. We have a saying in English, “fake it till you make it”, and this saying goes extra for creative fields. The second is to focus on managing time, big projects will only ever feel overwhelming if work is left to the last minute. Slowly going through the process leads to many benefits such as finding problems early so that you can get help with them or not feeling guilty and overwhelmed. This leads to a more enjoyable process, a better product result and a greater sense of achievement at the end of the project.
What advice do you have for OCAC students for their future development?
Reflect deeply on the things that interest you and bring you fulfillment and happiness (and happiness to the important people in your life), and go to those things.
In this new age of technology, social media, and the internet, it is so easy to waste time. Remember that time is valuable and limited, think carefully about how you choose to use it. Create balanced routines in your life that gives time for study, time for your interests, time for your family and friends and time for SLEEP.