What we say is often less telling than how we say…What we see is often more potent than what we are told…What we learn is often not a matter of fact, but a matter of being, a way of thinking. (Joyce. 1997)
Verbal communication - the exchange and debate between students, teachers and clients - is a key component of design education. How something is communicated to us and how we communicate to others can influence our outlook and attitudes and helps to mould the way we respond to situations and environments
Considerable scholarship exists on what comprises good teaching and learning but less on the role and impact of verbal dialogue and feedback can have on the quality of students' learning experience. This paper, drawing on my doctoral research and a UK Higher Education Academy funded project, offers a critical analysis of current undergraduate design students' learning through the face to face verbal formative feedback exchange between students and their tutors in a multi-cultural UK design educational environment. Using an internal evaluation strategy, through a series of observations, interviews, questionnaires and case studies, the research examines current practice and how verbal formative feedback is given, received and used in the undergraduate design studio.
This paper premises that how effectively students learn and the benefits gained from the formative feedback they receive, is not just reliant on the quality and focus of the feedback, but could also be affected by the students' perception of self - such as the power position (Devas, 2004, Sara & Parnell, 2004), the stress factor (Pope, 2005) and what Kluger and DeNisi (1996) refer to as the meta factor, where the quality of feedback interventions together with students' prior learning experience or understanding (Prosser & Trigwell, 1999) can impact on the student persona.
This perception of self can affect the cognitive resources applied to both the activities of the design 'presentation' and also the way students' understand and take forward the feedback that they receive. The learning, which results, is not always as might be expected, and is not just reliant on the nature and quality of the feedback given. This, the paper will argue, can impact on the quality of the design student's learning.