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Practice and Design Instruction

I consider myself to be a practicing designer, a design researcher, and a design educator. Each of these aspects is strengthened by the other and I believe my passion in striving to achieve a balance among these, has pushed me forward in the field. The master-apprentice model is considered to be the dominant pedagogical approach in design education. Therefore, my professional experience combined with the passion for research has provided a fertile background for me to become a good design educator.
As a practicing Architect, I have focused mainly on multistoried commercial designs and wild life parks, which are at complete opposite ends of the design spectrum. This diverse experience has allowed me to adapt to various situations. I have also worked on some hospitality design projects. In my carrier, I have worked through the conceptual stage to the completion of a design project. In my last appointment I was the project architect that administered the construction of a thirty-five storied apartment complex. This experience allowed me to ease into my position at OSU where my responsibilities were to teach a number of design studios and facility management courses. With my background in facilities, I have also served as the faculty adviser to the International Facility Management Associations (IFMA) student organization from 2013. The OSU IFMA student organization is an active organization at OSU, that is supported through the IFMA Oklahoma City Chapter and the IFMA Tulsa Chapter by way of scholarships and other means of assistance.
I have taught a number of design studios in DHM, where I have used my professional experience as a guide. The design studio learning format is molded through a constructivist ideology where students are encouraged to learn by doing. Design problems are considered to be ill structured or ill-defined problems (Simon, 1973). In ill structured problems the answers are unclear and sometimes require the student to reformulate the question in order to provide a solution. The studio setting affords the student to experiment and analyze different facets of a design problem and come to design conclusions. The derived solutions are then reviewed through a critique process which is often done at different stages of the design process. The design critiques have been an integral part of design education and provides valuable insight for students throughout design process. It is the main pedagogical tool used in design education and appears in many forms throughout a student’s design project, manifesting as desk critiques, group critiques, peer critiques etc., as formal or informal in nature. I have used design critiques in my design studios so that students are exposed to different points of view.

Changes in the strategic plan and adaptation of Digital Design

My research, instruction and outreach efforts all embody two major components: Digital Media and Design. As a professionally qualified Architect, my passion firmly lies in Design which is combined with my enthusiasm for digital media such as Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). I have been fortunate enough to teach design at three tertiary education institutions. Initially I was fascinated with the design process and how students designed in a design studio environment. I saw that sometimes the tools that students used were inefficient and at times even inhibited them in reproducing their design solutions, which made me wonder if there were other tools and methods that students could incorporate in their design process. My passion for digital media led me to think that different digital media tools might be helpful in enhancing the creative design process.
With the changes to the departmental strategic plan in 2015, it was decided that the responsibilities of my position be changed to focus on integrating technology into the Interior Design curriculum, owing to my expertise in the area of digital design. The vision of the department as stated in the strategic plan is “To be recognized leaders in technology and sustainable design in partnership with industry and community”

Several initiatives were undertaken by me to achieve the objectives of the new departmental strategic plan and vision.

1. Teaching Interior Design and Enhancing the curriculum through Digital Tools: Enhancing the Interior Design curriculum by adopting cutting edge technology that is relevant to the domain of Design

2. Teaching through the Mixed Reality Lab: Establishing the Mixed Reality Lab- A state of the art Laboratory focusing on the use of Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and 3D printing.

3. Teaching through outreach: Developing outreach activities that would showcase the technological capabilities of the department as well as developing partnerships with industry and community.

Teaching Interior Design and Enhancing the curriculum through Digital Tools

The use of digital tools in design education has dramatically increased. These tools have been commonly used as representational, collaborative and communicative media. Among the various digital tools, VR has been popular for all three purposes. These different digital tools enhance the use of epistemic action in design. Epistemic actions, defined as exploratory or trial-and-error type of actions, enable a designer to manipulate the design freely, reducing the cognitive load and conserving mental effort. Researchers have suggested that the reduction in cognitive load reduces fixation effects. Research also suggests that by reducing cognitive demand, cognitive resources can be used for other activities, which allows moving away from a linear thought process, and reduce fixation effects. Design fixation is often associated with negative effects on the creative design process, primarily during the design incubation and ideation stages. Reducing cognitive load has been shown to reduce fixation effects in the design process there by enhancing the creative design process.
Technology enables learners to practice skills in ways that cannot be achieved in the physical world, and these technologies provide virtual learning tools that do not break or wear out. Teaching methods need to be constantly updated and should relate to students. Motivation is a strong factor in education, and students can be motivated by relating education methods to their daily life, so that subject matter does not seem alien. For example, if mobile technology is a part of a student’s daily life it makes sense to connect lessons through that technology. I believe that efficiency, accessibility, and affordability are important criteria in selecting technologies for education, and I have adopted some strategies which have helped me communicate better and made learning more efficient. It is my belief that the answer to our question does not necessarily lie in the most popular or most commonly used way of looking at things. Experimentation often leads us to unexpected solutions for problems. I take this viewpoint very seriously and try to experiment a lot, using tools and software which are not always thought of as mainstream, but often are affordable and easy to use. I constantly try to keep my self updated on new methods of teaching and improve my teaching through whatever methods that are available. In 2015/16 I was selected to participate in the Human Sciences teaching academy at OSU, where I was paired with senior faculty mentors, that helped me immensely in developing my teaching skills.

Contact Dr. Tilanka Chandrasekera  |  913-219-3233  |  405-744-9524  |  tilanka@okstate.edu