Understanding the Role of Making in Enabling Students to Identify their Core Value, and How and Where They Want to Contribute to the World

Grant recipient: Lisa Papania, Beedie School of Business

Project team: Rob Woodbury, School of Interactive Arts and Technology, and Emily Smith, research assistant

Timeframe: September 2018 to December 2019

Funding: $6000

Course addressed:

  • IAT 330 – Intro to Business of Design
  • BUS 339 – Iteration and Prototyping
  • IAT 430 – Ramp-up and Production
  • BUS 476 – Communication and Launch

Description: The overarching objective of my Dewey Fellowship is to understand how to prepare students to become meaningful shapers of and contributors to their futures post-graduation. As educators, we have a (I would argue: the) responsibility of preparing graduates to purposefully select employers and employment that enable graduates to shape the future they want to live and work in.

Much of this has to do with articulating students and graduates as agents with the power and obligation of choosing employers and jobs that align with their values; whose strategic objectives the students/ graduates support, and whose goals the students/ graduates want to help achieve. Instead, we largely cast students as “job takers”. We encourage them to accept any job for any one, considering salary as the primary (or only) criterion by which to rank one potential employer over another.

One important caveat is that we encourage students to differentiate themselves from other job takers by engaging in extracurricular activities; which is extremely important, but not enough.

I believe that, as educators, we are in a position to help students identify, understand and then leverage their values, motivations, values, priorities, gifts, and talents, and then to guide students about how to acquire the expertise needed for them to pursue their passions. I also believe that the only way for students to discover their values, motivations, values, priorities, gifts, and talents is for them to act and make.

Making is a simple word for learning by doing. Making is also a fundamental tool for learning, developing and practicing expertise; for articulating and giving form to the value that a person offers (in) the world; and for providing value to someone else by solving an important and real problem for them.

Therefore, throughout my Dewey Fellowship I aim to use the Business of Design cohort experience, which is a one year, four course collaboration between the Beedie School of Business and the School of Interactive Arts and Technology, to study the effects of collaborative, values-based making on students’ understanding of themselves, their values and their desired way of impacting the world.

Questions addressed:

  • Do students define their ability to intervene in the world and the types of problems they want to tackle in terms of (or restricted by) the skills they possess?
  • Do students define the value they can offer (in) the world to be determined by or restricted to the skills they possess?
  • What role does making – and specifically making multiple prototypes – play in students’ perception of their ability and responsibility to enact change in the world?
  • What role does finding real customers/ users with real problems play in students’ articulations of the types of problems they want to solve and organizations they want to build/ work for?
  • What are the effects of students launching their own ventures?
  • Are students who have completed the program more successful, over time, in seeking and finding opportunities aligned with their values, that appreciate (both financially and non-financially) the students’ skills and expertise?
  • Do students who have completed the program feel that they are able to impact the work and social environment in a meaningful way?

Dissemination: We hope to share our findings at internal Teaching and Learning events, and to write up our findings for pedagogical journals. We believe that the nature and content of education needs to change. We would ideally like to share our findings with as many faculties and outside institutions who are willing to let us talk.