Iterative Practice, Iterative Pedagogy: Integrating Writing and Studio Education to Foster Reflective Teaching and Transformative Learning in the First-Year Graphic Design Classroom


Authors: Emilie Brancato, Nancy Snow & Saskia van Kampen
This poster highlights the preliminary findings of a Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) pilot project in design education exploring how the design concept of iteration—understood as a practice including research, (re)drafting, reflecting and revising—fosters critical engagement in the first-year Graphic Design classroom.  Critical engagement and discourse are fundamental to the process of transformative learning (Mezirow, 2003; Cranton, 2006). They are also fundamental to the process of making:  students must recognize preconceptions, undertake research, understand, deconstruct and draw upon the work of other designers, present and discuss their own designs, and provide constructive feedback on the work of their peers. Yet first-year students often lack the necessary skills to productively undertake these processes, and overestimate their abilities to do so as a result of unarticulated habits of mind and unexamined assumptions about research and learning.  Research suggests that integrating writing into disciplinary learning contexts can promote critical thinking and deep learning (Bean, 2011). Taking this as its starting point, this pilot project, a cross-disciplinary collaboration between a writing specialist and two design instructors, sought to integrate discipline-specific writing activities into design studio pedagogy. The project’s preliminary findings suggest that these writing tasks supported first-years’ iterative reflective processes and skills development, providing them with the means and opportunities to challenge habits of mind and engage critically with their work, both on their own and in the studio classroom. The poster will also highlight the ways in which the collaborative assignment design process was itself iterative, fostering reflective teaching practice among academic support staff and discipline-specific faculty. 


Bean, J.C. (2011). Engaging ideas: The professor’s guide to integrating writing, critical thinking, and active learning in the classroom, 2nd edition. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 

Cranton, P. (2006). Understanding and promoting transformative learning: a guide for educators of adults, 2nd edition. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Mezirow, J. (2003).Transformative Learning as Discourse. Journal of Transformative Education 1(1), 58-63.