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DesignSKILLS Programme

The ‘DesignSKILLS’ programme aims to develop skills in relation to the design process in post-primary schools in Ireland

DesignSKILLS Programme

DesignSKILLS is a joint initiative between the Design & crafts Council of Ireland and the Junior Cycle for Teachers. DesignSKILLS is part funded by Creative Ireland through the National Creativity Fund.

The ‘DesignSKILLS’ programme aims to develop skills in relation to the design process in post-primary schools in Ireland. The programme links skilled professional designer makers with teachers to develop a six hour mini project that explores the design process. It focuses on the very beginning of this process and emphasises ideation, problem solving, divergent thinking, risk taking and experimentation.

The programme importantly impacts the young people who take part in the classroom projects, but it also aims to create a legacy with the teachers, upskilling them in the delivery of the design process. It is hoped that this will have a knock on effect on the other students they teach and will teach in the future.

Students gain practical experience of design processes which they can use in the art room, but also bring into the rest of their learning experiences. Young people will explore their own individual ideas and developing their creative potential supported by professional designer makers and their teachers. This programme aims to equip them with ‘skills for life’. 

Developing teaching practice is core to DesignSKILLS. Research conducted in partnership with DesignCORE highlighted the beginning of the design process as a difficult phase for teachers as it unpredictable and risky. DesignSKILLS supports teachers to embrace the unknown and allow them to really engage with the struggles, challenges and rewards of the design process. Through peer reflection sessions at the end of the programme we aim to build a community of learning around design thinking in post-primary education.

“Key learning was in the students ability to recognise value in initial selection of primary sources; value in reflecting on each step to progress learning and development;, respond to this reflection with constructive and positive approaches; and to celebrate all the mistakes during the processes.” Colaiste Oirial

For the designer makers who take part, DesignSKILLS increases their understanding of the post-primary curriculum and thus their capacity to work in this educational context. Feedback from designer makers is that the programme also feeds their own creative process.

“The approach proved somewhat challenging for the students but they gained authentic experience in design development ‘problem solving’ in the research development of their personal projects. As each project was so different, students had great satisfaction in seeing how their own work had developed within the notebook pages. This naturally illustrated for each participant that developing personal research in visual diaries inspires new ideas and original work” – Aoife Thomas, Fashion Design

Each DesignSKILLS project is unique. It depends on the collaborative approach of the teacher and the designer maker, and the innovation of the students working in the classroom. DesignSKILLS projects to date have covered design elements from drawing, using primary sources, technical skills, responding to a brief and more. However at the heart of the programme is the goal to establish the importance of building strong foundations for the creative process through research and experimentation.

These are skills that are important not just for art, craft and design but are transferable to the wider lives and development of the students who take part. The future of work is increasingly flexible and diverse, the World Economic Forum predicts that analytical thinking and innovation will be the top of the list of desirable skills in 2022. These are closely followed by active learning, creativity, originality and initiative. DesignSKILLS through its process focused approach to learning encompasses all these elements.

In 2018 DesignSKILLS ran nationally in 26 schools with, 29 teachers, 25 designer makers and 521 young leaners taking part. The next call out for DesignSKILLS will be after Easter 2019 with projects to start in the next academic year (September 2019).

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