Raising the Bar on Pinterest: History of Interiors in a New Context

Presented by: Susan P. Stevenson, PhD

In the most recent Journal of Interior Design Perspective, “Navigating the Past: What Does History Offer the Discipline of Interior Design?” Cunningham (2014) illustrates how the study of the history of furniture design, interior design, architecture, and decorative arts can seem irrelevant to our students and makes a compelling argument encouraging educators to place the study of history into a context that is relevant to students and to the contemporary practice of interior design. The following assignment is a component of the History of Furniture and Interiors course that has sought to provide students with a deeper understanding of the history of the discipline of interior design and related fields. The problem, to engage students in active learning and critical thinking in history of interior design and assist them with developing a better understanding of the content in the textbook, was resolved utilizing Pinterest, an image based social networking site.

Pinterest is a virtual bulletin board where individuals can organize and curate images from many different resources into one place (Marino, 2012). An image is pinned to the board complete with the URL where the image was originally sourced if it was sourced online. Pinterest is an extremely popular social networking site with the majority of pins being related to fashion, home decorating, cooking, and crafting. While Pinterest is criticized for its lack of content, evidence suggests instructors are finding compelling ways to use Pinterest in the classroom engaging students by having them share and elaborate on images (Marino, 2012).

The Visual Resources assignment is one of several thought provoking assignments that are employed in this history course. In the assignment students are asked to research key terms and furnishings from their textbook readings and develop a definition stated in their own words, and to supply an appropriate image that illustrates that subject. Each student retains ownership of their own board and the instructor follows the students’ boards to evaluate student participation in the assignment. The project was developed after a workshop on critical thinking and is conducted in the History of Furniture and Interiors course utilizing an adaptation of the critical thinking process outlined in SEE-I (Nosich, 2012), a strategy for clarifying content within a subject area. SEE-I is an acronym for State, Elaborate, Exemplify and Illustrate.

In this assignment, students state the term that they are clarifying, they elaborate on that term by writing a definition using their own words. Next they search the internet using search engines that allow them to amass imagery related to that term. For the second E, exemplify was modified to evaluate as exemplify and illustrate seem to be synonymous. The students evaluate the imagery from the search for fitness with their understanding of the terminology.  Finally the students capture the image and illustrate the term using the “Pin it” button to place it on their board. The result is a carefully curated board of relevant terms for the chapter. After the first assignment is completed the students invite the instructor to “follow” the board. Pinterest allows for open comment directly on the pinned image on the board, so the instructor can view pins, read definitions provided by the student, and provide feedback directly on the board.

Students in the course enjoy using Pinterest to complete the assignment and are already familiar with Pinterest from previous interior design studios where they use it as a repository for design inspiration and to collect resources for projects. Student feedback indicates that the Pinterest boards created during in this course make studying easier and are a reference that they can refer back to after the course is over. Students are empowered by choosing what they include on their boards citing that they are in control of their learning and not just completing an assignment.


  • Cunningham, E. (2014) “Navigating the Past: What Does History Offer the Discipline of Interior Design?” Journal of Interior Design, (39)3, v-x.
  • Marino, K. (2012) Professors, Peers and Pinterest. WorldWideLearn.com Retrieved from: http://www.worldwidelearn.com/education-articles/professors-peers-pinterest.html
  • Nosich, G. M. (2012) Learning to Think Things Through: A Guide to Critical Thinking Across the Curriculum, (4th Ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

Appendix File 1
Appendix File 2
Appendix File 3

View the final presentation file presented at the Annual Conference.

Join Renew Instagram Twitter Facebook LinkedIn
image widget