Teaching Them to Weave: Preparing Textile Students for Long-Term Memory Retention

Presented by: Nancy G. Miller

Change from a traditional textile science-based ‘Introduction to Textiles’ course  to one that imparts essential textile information while supporting the strong tradition of ‘making’ established in our school.

The process of change began with research investigating ‘experiential learning’ as a pedagogical strategy for the course. Drawing strongly from the learning tenents presented in Dewey (1938) and endorsed by Bloom’s (1956) writing, Cannon & Feinstein (2005) set out to assess the Kolb Learning Style Inventory (Kolb, 1984). This theory addresses how students move previous knowledge into their own thoughts—how they interpret these experiences, what meaning is given to them, and what their reactions are to them in the future. Cannon, et.al. (2005) furthered this thinking, saying higher levels of long-term learning are gained when students analyze their experience, evaluate the relative merits of the outcomes, and alter their actions to achieve desired results.  This became the underlying pedagogy in the class.

Our program is one of few interior design programs to house its own textile course. The students enrolling in the class are first- or second-year students with little background in textile science, something Kolb urged as needed. However, these students are familiar with apparel and the class had the potential to build experience in the classroom through lectures supported with clipping room swatches, followed by creative application to build from that foundation.

The semester’s lectures addressed basic broad-based foundational topics such as fiber types, classification, and properties, etc.; topics such as codes and finishes were addressed in lecture format supported by ‘swatch searches’ in the clipping room. To build upon Kolb’s desire to connect the previous knowledge with new materials, these lectures were designed to build heavily on what students may already know about interior textiles and heavily referenced apparel, where they may have deeper knowledge.

The course was divided into 7 units and the classroom was flipped. During each unit the students were asked to read a specific chapter in the text (Wilbanks, et.al., 2009) outside of class, and were to find appropriate swatches in the clipping room. Another class used small groups to apply learning from text and samples by answering study questions. The creative portion of each unit focused on production of swatches (hand woven, felted, printed, 3-D). The students created samples that were intended to support the specific focus of the unit. For example, when studying weave structures, the students wove specific samples on a 4-harness loom; designed a weave structure using software, wove the design on a computer-aided loom, then analyzed their sample for suitability-to-purpose by means of critique and reflective writing.  The last activity in each unit was to design an improved sample—thus applying and building upon previously gained knowledge. The units were carefully ordered to follow Kolb’s and Cannon’s suggestions that to be integrated into the student’s long-term knowledge, it must build upon previously information. 

Always a difficult course, the changes made to the Textiles class yielded higher final exam scores, thus supporting an intermediate level of long-term recall.  The essential structure of the class was successful and while there are always changes to be made in succinctness and clarity, the pedagogy promoted by Kolb and Cannon & Feinstein will remain the same—work to build course content on previously gained knowledge in an orderly manner.


  • Bloom, B. S., N. D. Englehart, E. J. Furst, W. H. Hill, and D. R. Krathwohl (1956). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives – The Classification of Educational Goals, Handbook I: Cognitive Domain. New York: David McKay Company.
  • Cannon, H. M., & Feinstein, A. H. (2005). Bloom Beyond Bloom: Using the revised Taxonomy to Develop Experiential Learning Strategies. Developments in Business Simulations and Experiential Learning, Volume 32, 348-359. Retrieved on October 1, 2014 from: file:///C:/Users/ngmille/Documents/ID
  • Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and education. New York: Collier Books.
  • Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
  • Wilbanks, A., Oxford, N., & Miller, D., (2009).  Textiles for Residential and Commercial Interiors. New York: Fairchild Books.

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