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'If at first you don't succeed: Affecting a change in the referral process of design education'

Solomons, Gabriel; Dowling, John Paul

'If at first you don't succeed: Affecting a change in the referral process of design education' Thumbnail


John Paul Dowling


There has been very little attention given to the importance of the referral stage in design education even though this is the stage at which students can learn the most from their mistakes in order to improve and progress.

Acknowledging that students sometimes fall behind and fail modules due to a variety of reasons other than laziness, lack of effort or poor engagement – the referral stage offers both students and teachers the opportunity for renewed creative dialogue.

The referral process is traditionally used to offer failing students ‘a second chance’ of passing a particular module. Capped at 40% (meaning students can only pass or fail the module) and based on re-submission of the same projects from the original module, work is often submitted with the bare minimum effort made in order to ‘scrape by’. Staff support tends to be minimal during the run-up to re-submission as core focus tends to shift to the ‘stronger’ students continuing their studies.

Seeing the traditional model of referral as out-dated and failing to address deeper issues of engagement, we have recently begun to change our model of referral briefing so that new work is required of the students based on bespoke briefs. Staff input is therefore more crucial in order to explain the brief and support student progress before resubmission.

This more pastoral approach to teaching and learning addresses issues of student retention, the growing pressure that institutions are under in the UK to justify rising fees (9k per year) and the ‘service’ that is offered to students to help ensure a successful transition to the working world.

By adjusting the course curriculum in respect of the referral process, we are aiming to foster a learning environment that embraces the notions of ‘trial and error’ and learning from mistakes both for students and staff.

In our presentation we will discuss our new briefing model for referral stage that link directly to typography and print modules in level 1 and level 2.
We will also present various case studies of students who fully embraced the referral stage to improve on their work and lead to high levels of (typographic?) achievement by the end of their course.


Solomons, G., & Dowling, J. P. (2014, July). 'If at first you don't succeed: Affecting a change in the referral process of design education'. Presented at Typecon 2014: Trial & Error, Washington D.C., USA

Presentation Conference Type Lecture
Conference Name Typecon 2014: Trial & Error
Conference Location Washington D.C., USA
Start Date Jul 30, 2014
End Date Aug 3, 2014
Acceptance Date Jul 31, 2014
Publicly Available Date Jun 6, 2019
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords curriculum, design, teaching, methodology
Public URL
Additional Information Title of Conference or Conference Proceedings : Typecon 2014: Trial & Error


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