American University of Beirut

IDPP launches the Teaching Innovation Support Program at MSFEA 

​​Curricular reform and re-designing our teaching methods are not straightforward endeavors, especially when the topic in question covers technical fundamentals like Newton's Laws or Artificial Intelligence. Well, winds of change are starting to blow at MSFEA.

Over the past months, the Interdisciplinary Design Practice Program (IDPP) has initiated its Teaching Innovation Support Program to assist AUB faculty, lecturers and instructors in the process of creating and implementing targeted course interventions under the umbrella of Teaching Innovation. Since then, classrooms momentarily became galleries, engineering students turned into ethnographers, and rubber ducks have invaded Bechtel. What is the common point between these interventions? Human-Centered Design!

​Two modes of intervention 

The IDPP systematically integrates methodologies derived from Human-Centered Design (HCD) and Design Thinking (DT) to drive curricular integration of key skills and mindsets at MSFEA: pushing students to nurture the intellectual agility, collaborative abilities, and tolerance for ambiguity necessary to meaningfully address complex 21st-century challenges. 

To infuse this premise into academic courses, two modes of intervention are possible: 

  1. Using HCD for teaching: helping professors approach teaching from a student-centered perspective. 

  2. Teaching HCD: helping professors introduce notions of design-thinking within their learning objectives. 

Such interventions can result in various exciting changes in conventional teaching. Take for example Dr. Elsa Maalouf's classroom, where students studying for a fluids engineering exam, spent the same morning creating collaborative review guides; or Dr. W​alid Saad's students who challenged their assumptions and came up with chemical product designs based on contextualized and well-researched user needs and pain points. 

The process 

Exposure: Introduce professors to Design Thinking 

Exposing AUB professors to the principles of HCD and providing them with the right toolkit to weave these methods into their teaching, is crucial to drive pedagogical reforms from within, and on a larger scale. To this end, the IDPP initiated a series of bootcamps, where each Teaching Innovation Through Design Thinking Bootcamp is an opportunity for AUB professors to put their pedagogical approach under scrutiny, take a step in their students' shoes, and share their experience with other colleagues in a pluri-disciplinary context to expand their mutual perspectives. Two bootcamps have already taken place, and IDPP will be holding these internal bootcamps annually. 

Facilitation: Intervene with professors in the context of their classes 

AUB professors looking to get support in the creation and implementation of experiential interventions for their courses, or the introduction of project-based design processes, can sign-up for IDPP's Teaching Innovation Support Program. This program is built around the implementation of the HCD process towards redesigning course experiences, through a curated set of design tools: 

Depending on the nature of the course and pedagogical objectives to be achieved, concept notes combining activities and adapted assessment tools are developed. IDPP then takes charge in creating tailored pedagogical artifacts to materialize these interventions along with reflection tools for an optimal student experience. The team also offers support in the facilitation of the different activities created within their respective classrooms.

 ​Support: Accompany professors as they implement changes on a long run 

The IDPP provides sustained support directed towards iterations on the designed interventions, including guest appearances in classes to moderate specific activities, open communication channels for feedback and sustained guidance, facilitation of focus-groups with students to recreate interventions, and co-authoring publications to share outcomes of experimentations. 

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