Shift happens – also in the education field

Shift happens – also in the education field

The pre-convention meeting for Educators on 1. November began with an update on the discussions and work achieved by a Think/Do Tank on the lighting profession and lighting education. This includes defining a career path in Lighting, and compiling a core curriculum for academic programmes, which all led to the idea of launching an Alliance for the lighting community and, as a consequence, a structured CPD set-up, which VIA is currently developing. Universities will be invited to provide CPD modules / learning opportunities.

One idea that came out of the round of talks was to consider providing a summer programme for lighting educators. Another topic that was raised was “creative thinking” as part of an academic programme. This topic made for a suitable introduction to the guest speaker Dr. Natalia Bystryantseva, who is Head of the Art & Science Institute and Director of the Creative Lighting Design (CLD) programme at ITMO University in St. Petersburg. Natalia gave an inspiring presentation on: Education that breaks down barriers – academic programmes today need to prepare lighting designers to act as “alchemists” and synthesise different kinds of sciences, art and technologies to create new scope for design.

ITMO uses Art & Science as a tool to predict the challenges of the future and as a way to integrate the analytical tools to create lighting design concepts and products by activating different ways of thinking and the technology involved, depending on the project. This includes: How to activate and develop different types of thinking and the technology of thinking? Which tools to use? Which educational methodologies ensure the professional tools are not turned into clichés?

Researchers then joined the pre-convention meeting, and Prof. Werner Osterhaus, who was part of the Think/Do Tank on Education and the Profession from the start, reported on: The inclusion of Research Methodology in the Core Curriculum for academic institutions.

Dr. Amardeep Dugar gave a presentation on: Scientific training and critical assessment techniques – short-term goals for long-term effect, using the topic of his PhD thesis on “Tangible Lighting Controls” (Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington/NZ, 2010) to demonstrate the Planning, Building, Analysing and Communicating aspects of performing research.

The Lighting Research landscape looks good, but ways must be found to communicate research outputs. The publication of research findings in peer-reviewed journals is part of the recognition process within the academic milieu, but there is a need to go beyond this and reach out to the design community and key decision-makers in order to be able to make a difference and raise the quality of design.

Discussions that took place over the PLDC days, including a Think Tank for specific educators, reconfirmed the need for a coordinated Educators’ Network. Lighting Design programmes at universities around the world are also in a process of change. There is a recognised need to introduce at least an awareness, if not an understanding, of particular disciplines that today play a role in the implementation of lighting design concepts. Backed by research findings and experience gained in the fields of medicine, neuroscience, urban planning, social design, interaction and communication design, lighting designers today can create spaces using light to enhance the user’s experience of the space – openly or intuitively – support human health and well-being, facilitate wayfinding, enable gallery visitors to appreciate exactly what artists intended over three centuries ago, and generate public spaces that truly belong to the public. And it is the universities’ responsibility to prepare young people for such an – as Tapio Rosenius prefers to refer to it – anti-disciplinary career. This does not mean that lighting designers in future are against recognising different disciplines, but that the approach to every project must require thinking out of the box, especially out of one’s own particular box.

It would be wrong to say that the future is full of challenges. We have to concentrate on the challenges here and now! Exciting times on the education front, when openness, cooperation, coherence and collaboration are to be accompanied by meaningful creativity and the confidence to go beyond daring, and nevertheless design environments that make sense on many different levels – because we know how, who we need in the team to achieve this, and above all why.