Embedding strategies to support students’ growth mindset attitude towards ‘making mistakes’ in first year visual communication course

Dr Gerhard Bachfischer (University of Technology Sydney)
2018 Conference

This paper focuses on developing growth mindset attitudes in first year design students. A successful design process is built on practice, struggles, growth, mistakes, and failures; a growth mindset influences students’ positive attitudes and approaches towards those building blocks of successful design. It is not only necessary for a seamless transition into higher degree design courses but also fundamental for students’ ongoing learning success within their degree and their professional practice after exiting university. This study looks for effective strategies that can be embedded in courses to help first year students develop and cultivate a growth mindset. It may seem that design students can absorb the culture of such key elements to success – making mistakes and seeing them as a positive stepping-stone towards their own mastery – from their lecturers, studio teachers and tutors. However, many students in their first year design degree, when asked about their attitudes towards setbacks in our exploratory study, indicated that they view struggle as an indication of “not belonging”, challenges as a sign of “not being good enough”, and efforts as “something for people without natural talent”. As such mindsets are likely to hinder success, it is essential that we do better to embed a design culture in our students’ education that thrives on learning from mistakes and struggles. Carol Dweck’s (2006) research on the psychology of mindsets and motivation provides an important foundation in this study, shedding light on why and how widespread such limiting attitudes are.

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About the author

Gerhard Bachfischer is an Austrian-born typographer / designer / lecturer / academic with over 30 years of experience in design education, around half of it from Austria, and half from Australia. He is currently a senior lecturer in the Visual Communication Undergraduate Degree in the School of Design at University of Technology Sydney (UTS). He most enjoys teaching typography in a large core subject called Text & Image. Gerhard completed his doctorate, “Framework of Influential Factors on the Typographic Quality of Text Perceived by its Audience”, in 2009 at UTS. He also holds a Master’s Degree in Interactive Multimedia from UTS. His main research interests include design practice and education in particular typographic education.