The Threshold of Uncertainty in Teaching Design

Main Article Content

Jane Osmond Michael Tovey


In many of our universities and colleges there is a long
established approach to teaching design through practice.
For most students their end goal is to achieve a level of
capability to function as designers in the professional
world. Their education helps them construct a passport to
enter this community of professional practice. Part of the
legacy of the funding initiative in England to support
research into teaching has been the development of a
better understanding of a practice-based approach to
design pedagogy. This was a principal focus in two centres
funded by the initiative in which ‘signature pedagogies’
were identified as a distinguishing characteristic for
developing student capability within various types of design
practice, each of which contains those elements, which are
characteristic of the discipline. This notion moves the
emphasis away from the content of the curriculum and
explores the importance of practical, embodied and
experiential ways of knowing. Where these were
investigated for product and automotive design the
concept of transformative practice was identified as crucial.
Designers typically employ two simultaneous interacting
cognitive styles. From a five-year longitudinal study
involving 89 design students, it became clear that in order
to develop the confidence to match these two modes of
thought, neophyte designers needed to surmount a barrier,
or a threshold concept, which we labelled the toleration of
of design uncertainty. Accommodating effective
arrangements to accomplish this has reinforced the
importance of employing the traditional arrangement of
studio teaching and given it a greater focus.

Article Details

How to Cite
OSMOND, Jane; TOVEY, Michael. The Threshold of Uncertainty in Teaching Design. Design and Technology Education: an International Journal, [S.l.], v. 20, n. 2, june 2015. ISSN 1360-1431. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 02 june 2023.
design pedagogy, higher education, liminal spaces, curriculum