17 SES 10, 1916-2016 - “Education and Democracy” for a Democratic Learning Space (Part 1)
Symposium to be continued in 17 SES 11
What is needed for supporting the students of product development to achieve the most advanced and sustainable learning experience? This question has guided the development of the interdisciplinary Product Development Project (PDP) course at Aalto University since 1997. It all started with small improvements for the existing physical learning environments. Soon additional immaterial components – student centricity, interdisciplinarity, experimental learning philosophy, accessibility at any time, prototyping and testing - were introduced and tested. The best practices and ideas were finally scaled up at the opening of Aalto Design Factory (ADF) in 2008. Since then, the design factory concept has been spreading around the globe. Now the Design Factory Global Network includes ten members that brought the same philosophy fitted to the cultural environment in their own countries. In terms of learning spaces, the design factory concept is characterized by various multi-purpose spaces that allow maintaining a high utilization rate by students and teachers and keeping things flexible. As an example we will present the Porto Design Factory (PDF) in Portugal. It is based at Polytechnic of Porto, a higher education institution composed by 7 schools and more than 18.000 students. PDF is located in its own building. The kitchen is the central meeting point where teachers, students and external members from local community may interact and share their ideas. The informal context enhances social interaction and collaboration. In regard to the democratic learning, the PDF teachers and students are now more equal members of the community. Instead of controlling, the teachers’ activities include more advising, tutoring and coaching. The interdisciplinary collaboration is partly planned, but partly just happening naturally. The experience of acting with people from different disciplines and cultures during graduation is expected to boost the development of soft skills, which, in turn, will prepare them better for their working life challenges. Although Design Factory concept has been spreading, its impact on graduates’ soft skills and employability needs to be explored more systematically. This proposal aims to present the design factory concept and to introduce an on-going research project aimed to evaluate whether the design factory experience enhances graduates’ soft skills and employability.
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