What we teach is changing

Presented by: Bryan Orthel, Julia Day, Jesse Peck, Rebekah Radtke, Doug Seidler, Khoi Vo

Relevance / Problem The character of interior design education is changing. Core ideas that define strong design are assuming even greater importance in professional practice (e.g., creativity/design thinking, environmental stewardship). Aspects of professional practice that have been taken for granted are requiring renewed attention (e.g., written and graphic communication, professional behavior). Technology continues to redefine the way that we live, interact, and communicate with each other as humans and design professionals. And, interior design’s professional realm has expanded through active collaboration and expectations about interdisciplinary, evidence-based design solutions. As a result, what we teach—and how we teach—continues to change. How are educators adapting to the changes that will define the next ten years of design students? Context While the characteristics of professional design practice have shifted, the group of students preparing to become design professionals is also often described as fundamentally different from previous generations of learners. Although significant research efforts have tried to distinguish the characteristics of generational cohorts, the results are contradictory and incompletely understood. Recent academic evaluation of generational characteristics has determined that many conclusions are not generalizable or that data points to the similarities rather than differences of generational cohorts (Twenge, Campbell, & Freeman, 2012; Real, Mitnick, & Maloney, 2010). At the same time, educators are challenged to adapt teaching techniques to reflect the expectations and learning needs of the Millennial student (e.g., Espinoza, 2012; D’Souza, Yoon, & Islam, 2011). Educators are placed in a difficult position between fluid goals and constituents. In response, our teaching is increasingly informed by rigorous scholarship of teaching and learning that examines how students learn to design (e.g., Carmel-Gilfilen & Portillo, 2010). Educators must also evaluate how we, ourselves, are changed by the profession, technology, and social forces. Method This panel presentation will engage a diverse set of six educators to evaluate specific, desired characteristics for future interior designers and corresponding educational approaches that are tailored to develop these characteristics in the student cohort entering post-secondary education in 2017. Each educator will present her/his idea and response in a 5-minute series of timed slides. Following the presentations, an interactive exercise will encourage the audience to look afresh at what we hope our students learn and to discuss how to teach the characteristics that future interior designers will need to be successful. The audience will be challenged to develop specific teaching ideas in response to the characteristics. Outcomes The panel presentations will conceptualize interior design education in an informed way that draws on recent and ongoing discussion about the future of interior design (e.g., Future Vision and the CIDA 2017 Standards), as well as the regular discussion that happens between educators and practicing professionals about the way forward. The discussion activity will link proposed instruction with rigorous teaching-and-learning research. The new teaching ideas generated during the group activity will be shared in a format (TBD) outside the boundaries of the session. Advancement of Design Knowledge The session will engage participants in what we do best—identifying and solving problems in creative ways. This discussion will provide a focused venue to shape collaboration and exchange of ideas about issues that face interior design education. The outcome should promote broader conversation at the conference to emphasize how and why interior design education will lead change in the third decade of the twenty-first century.


  • Carmel-Gilfilen, C. & Portillo, M. (2010). Creating mature thinkers in interior design: Pathways of intellectual development. Journal of Interior Design, 35(3), 1-20. doi:10.1111/j.1939-1668.2010.01043.x.
  • D’Souza, N., Yoon, S., & Islam, Z. (2011). Understanding design skills of the Generation Y: An exploration through the VR-KiDs project. Design Studies, 32, 180-209. doi:10.1016/j.destud.2010.02.002
  • Espinoza, C. (2012). Millennial values and boundaries in the classroom. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 131, 29-41. doi:10.1002/t1.20025
  • Real, K., Mitnick, A.D., & Maloney, W.F. (2010). More similar than different: Millennials in the U.S. building trades. Journal of Business and Psychology, 25(2), 303-313. doi:10.1007/s10869-010-9163-8
  • Twenge, J.M., Campbell, W.K., & Freeman, E.C. (2012). Generational differences in young adults’ life goals, concern for others, and civic orientation, 1966-2009. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102(5), 1045-1062. doi:10.1037/a0027408