Teacher Philosophy Statement
The purpose of teaching user experience is to prepare students to be self-sufficient, independent thinking designers capable of solving complex design problems. Each class and each lesson within the course is specifically designed to move students towards a bigger goal of becoming a User Experience (UX) practitioner by adding a skill in their toolkit. I approach lesson plans with the same tactic as a UX project. I equate the student to a user, applying user-centered design to make the education accessible and memorable.
As a professor my goal is to teach a balance of user experience concepts, theories and practical deliverables. For example, in my Introduction to User Experience class, I begin by introducing UX in the real world, using examples like Walt Disney and Frank Lloyd Wright. I ask students for examples of a recent User Experience that left a strong impression. I then transition to digital experiences, asking them to explain why they found those experiences good or bad. Through this exercise I like to plant a seed that design matters and that understanding user needs and behavior is key. By the end of the class, the students are capable of using user experience terms and concepts to describe, analyze and solve the same experience.
When lecturing, I like to front-load my lessons, requiring students to pre-read material. Sometimes I incentivize by making games or contests out of the lessons. I apply checks for understanding by frequently using exercises like “explain to your neighbor.” Sometimes at the end of class, I’ll have students write on the whiteboard one idea they learned that day. For concepts like Usability, I have my students practice by conducting tests with each other. They practice talking to users, introducing the test, asking users to accomplish a task and probing the user for further understanding. I also give students in-class workshop time so that they can ask questions and explore ideas as needed.
I feel that students learn best when they are given real world problems to solve under real world constraints like time, technology and stakeholder demands. I use problem-based learning, so students work with real clients and take on all the roles within User Experience. Though they frequently struggle, the lessons learned are invaluable.
Whether my students continue on in the design field or not, they have learned critical thinking skills that they can apply at any job. My students have gone on to junior design roles with companies like Weight Watchers, Grubhub, and IBM, and agencies like Huge.