Developing a Personal and Professional Development (PPD) curriculum for first-year design students



Design Education Strategy


  • experiential training, curriculum


Full Title: A short story: towards developing a Personal and Professional Development (PPD) curriculum for first-year design students

The changing world of education is clearly reflected in the development of courses designed to support first-year students in bridging the gap between secondary and higher education. The introduction of Personal and Professional Development (PPD) into the first-year programme of a Bachelor of Arts in Applied Design at the Stellenbosch Academy of Design and Photography is an intervention with the emphasis on assisting (underprepared) students in acquiring transferable generic skills. The challenge was to develop from scratch a PPD curriculum geared towards Applied Design students, a curriculum which would enrich and feed into their course material.

In the absence of an appropriate model, carte blanche was effectively granted for the formation of a brand-new course. A chance encounter with a short story by A.S. Byatt entitled ‘Art Work’ provided inspiration and led to a series of discussions which would furnish students with opportunities for relevant and stimulating experiences. The interdisciplinary approach which resulted gave scope for the integration of literature, art history, geography, history, mathematics, sociology and much more. The topics were chosen in collaboration with the design educators’ input in order to link the generic skills with the students’ degree programme content.

Themes explored against the backdrop of the story were, for example, vocabulary building, research methods, referencing, plagiarism, academic reading and writing, art terminology, and even such topics as time management and students’ responsibility for their own learning. Feedback from the Institution’s Experiential Learning Report was also incorporated in areas such as client liaison, meeting protocol and cost estimations. Visual presentations of paintings, graphic work, and objets d’art invariably contributed to the students’ involvement with the visual. This move away from the old school of thought (with life skills taught out of context) towards a more integrated and holistic approach seemed to strike a chord according to student feedback.

A greater emphasis on the enjoyable and entertaining aspects of learning, which the poet Horace called delectando pariterque monendo (by equally delighting and instructing) can support students in their journey towards self-realisation and being elastic enough to make a valuable contribution to the creative community they ultimately join. It is hoped that this concept might serve as a starting point for some brilliant ideas to be generated by practitioners in the field of curriculum development. In an ongoing project like this, new avenues will continuously have to be opened for students and educators alike and so contribute to the great flow of change in education that has already been set in motion.

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