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The Journal of Aesthetic Education 39.1 (2005) 31-47

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Holistic Integrated Design Education:

Art Education in a Complex and Uncertain World


All art is the solution to an initiating design problem that must be articulated, even if the problem is this: to create something without meaning. As such, all art is a literary process, whereby the idea is articulated before that idea is re-presented as an art form. And this is precisely what I attempt to do in the classroom when I assign highly challenging, universal, socio-cultural based and interpretive design problems. Both intent and solutions are implicit in the design assignments given to students. In each case the design process is emphasised, and students define the problem, research (often collaboratively), brainstorm (diving deeply into the problem for potential solutions), develop alternative solutions, use free-hand sketches and storyboarding to track the design and decision-making process, and (finally) select the best design for development and evaluation. Definition of key terms, research and storyboarding are the initial steps in the process to solving each of the design problems. Some examples of problem solving performance tasks are provided below (Table 1).

Regarding the last example, in my first year of teaching I accepted a position on agreement that I teach Grade 10 (sophomore) mathematics. Even though my teaching background favored art and history, this was not a hardship because my original degree was in architecture (University of Toronto, 1978). I realized quickly that my personal romance with D.N. Perkins's Knowledge as Design demanded that I attempt to teach mathematics as a design process (much to the dismay of the department head).1 Nevertheless, imaginative mathematical works of mind were explored, based on original "design problems." As well, collaborative math tests were developed (and structured as design problems), where students divided into groups or design teams, each team having a "competent mathematician" on [End Page 31]

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Table 1
Works of Mind; Visual Arts as a Problem-Solving Design Process
[End Page 32]

board. Each team worked together to solve one challenging mathematical problem, or a series of challenging mathematical design problems, under a time limit. This ensured that each student had a role to play. A key group dynamic here is that students speak to each other as peers, in a way teachers cannot: "No! You don't do it that way, silly. It's like this!" says A. "Ok! Ok! Don't yell at me," says B tenderly. "It's like this?" "Yes!" says A. "See! You really are good at math!" It was a beautiful thing to watch. The so-called "stupid-at-math" students saw how the "brainy" math students interpreted and approached mathematics, while the "brainy" students pulled those students who always believed they were "stupid at math" up to their level. In the end (to say the least), it greatly increased the weaker students' comfort level entering the classroom, and (at best) it gave weaker math students confidence by dispelling some of the mystical mystery which mathematics seems to possess — mathematics is not a mystery, it is a problem waiting to be solved as any other design problem once you know the process.

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Table 2
Components of the Egosystem

This is holistic integrated design education (or HIDE). Transforming students from the traditional, isolated receiver of information to the holistic child requires a fundamental transformation of the associative-cognitive paradigm of learning behavior and psychology, based on the child's ego development in a kind of object-filled, symbolical, self-contained world.2 In actuality, the world is complex, multi-faceted, hyper-sensitive, with many people of different socio-cultural and intellectual frames of mind interacting; and it is (thus) hardly self-contained. The world has indeed evolved that far. Somehow, like all paradigms, the ego must undergo a similar evolution, a similar transformation.3 A new version of ego must be invented, one that takes into account all the stuff of objective reality — the...


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pp. 31-47
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