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  • Writer's pictureTingbin Tang

Drive Students By Questions Instead of Answers

Updated: Mar 29, 2020

Statement of Pedagogy

Pedagogy, as the method and practice of teaching, defines how educators like us interact with learners. As an educator, a designer, and a design educator, I have formed my own understanding of pedagogy during my professional and academic practices and experiences.

1. Set up an OKR, let the students clearly see the path of success

Objectives and key results (OKR) is a framework for defining and tracking objectives and their outcomes. It was invented by Intel and adopted by Google, then become popular in many Silicon Valley tech start-up organizations. By adopting OKR into research, education and academic activities, I believe it will be great to connect administrators, educators, students, research team, and personal goals to measurable results while having all parties work together in one, unified direction.

Human beings always tend to look for the meaning behind before start to do something. Students also tend to know the meaning of each subject or class, and clearly understand what they will achieve through this subject/class, how to be successful, and how to measure the success. It is important for an educator like us to make sure everyone in the classroom knows what’s expected.

OKRs consist of a list of 3-5 high level Objectives. As an educator, we should also clearly guide the students to under each Objective, and set 3-5 measurable Key Results. Different students may have different situation, so it is also important for educators to set up the OKR together with each students, and plan for the milestones with different level of Objectives. Involve the students in the setting up of OKR, let them clearly understand what resources they can get through the educator, the school and the system, make an executable plan together with the student, and define the measurement of success.

2. Inspire students and guide them by curiosity

What makes students initiatively want to learn and eager to find out more? It's curiosity. Curiosity sets the brains ready for the project, draws the students’ full attention, guides students during the process and rewards the students with the joy of exploration. Curiosity drives learning, critical thinking, and reasoning.

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In most educational scenarios, students normally are the ones that ask questions while educators are the ones provide answers. However, in my opinion, it is very important for educators to keep asking right questions. Instead of feeding the students with the “right” answer, it is even more important for an educator to ask questions, inspire and guide students to find out the answers by themselves, in the right direction. Because the way an educator asks a question, has already indicated the directions for the students to explore further.

Paul and Elder (2000) state that ‘Thinking is not driven by answers but by questions’. Just like Socrates, who was not teaching, but to make people thinking. The way an educator inspires a student, is not to keep showing other good examples, or to provide a “correct” answer, but to ask the right questions at the right stage. Right question means a question that is capable to guide the students to explore further and think deeper. We should not allow that field to close down but to constantly ask questions to keep the project alive, ongoing and digging further.

3. Interact with the industry, learning through doing

I am always a believer of learning through doing, and I always do my best to engage my students with the industry and bring in sponsored real projects from the companies for the students to work on.

As many people complained, there have been a gap between education and industry. Many graduates find what they have learnt in school does not match with the industry needs or does not keep up with the industry trend. So the best way to solve this is to engage students, school and the industry together. Some famous schools like MIT media lab have been doing a great job in that way.

When I was the founder and director of the Transportation Design program in CAFA (Central Academy of Fine Arts), I led my students worked on Nissan Paladin redesign project, DFAC MPV (Multi Purpose Vehicle) project, Beijing Olympic bus design, and so on and so forth. When I was teaching in SJSU (San Jose State University), I also brought in the Gionee mobile phone launcher project, mobile pet project to the interaction design program students.

Further more, as a serial entrepreneur myself, have been immersive in the startup culture in Silicon Valley, I also like to shape my students’ entrepreneurial skills. I guide them to understand the economic issues, user needs, marketing strategies and so on. Entrepreneurial skills have been intentionally incorporated into the curriculum I am teaching, and I always bring in successful entrepreneurs, innovators, and investors as guest lecturers in my classes.

Above are my philosophy of pedagogy, as a designer, entrepreneur, educator, and most importantly, a design educator. I’d like to introduce OKR to my classes, help students clearly setting up their Objectives and key results, milestones and measurable metrics. Instead of keep providing the answers to the students, I’d like to keep asking students questions, to inspire them and to guide them. Instead of teaching with text book materials, I’d like to engage and involve students, education with the industry, and keep students up-to-dated with the trends, and to learn more practical knowledge and skills through real projects sponsored by companies.

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