Singapore Institute of Technology

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The Mad Foundry: Towards a Transdisciplinary Education Model for the Creative Disciplines

conference contribution
posted on 2022-03-25, 08:58 authored by Mark Lu, Soo Yin Tang, Clarice Sim
The creative industries in Singapore is divided into three major sub-sectors (Arts and Culture, Design, and Media & Communications ). This has impacted the way creative disciplines are taught and structured in Singapore IHLs. Typically, each major sub-sector forms a different school/faculty, and each discipline within the sub-sectors is a different course of study. Such a model, however, allows little opportunity for cross-disciplinary learning and collaboration, and also runs counter to the changing needs of the creative industries where transdisciplinary skillsets and approaches to problem solving are becoming increasingly important. The purpose of this paper is to present an analysis of Singapore Polytechnic’s newly launched Diploma in Media, Arts & Design as a way of opening up new perspectives and approaches to teaching the creative disciplines in IHLS, in order to better prepare students for an ever-changing industry.

In response to the increasing convergence and hybridisation of skillsets in the creative sectors, the Media, Arts & Design School in Singapore Polytechnic launched the Diploma in Media, Arts and Design (DMAD) in April 2020. DMAD is a single diploma course that merged 8 different diploma courses from 3 different schools in Singapore Polytechnic. The programme intentionally promotes transdisciplinary learning and thinking amongst students in two ways: (i) a common first-semester programme called the MAD Foundry; and (ii) a Project Core, which comprises one transdisciplinary studio modules in each year of study for all DMAD students. This presentation will focus on the following aspects of the MAD Foundry: (i) The pedagogical tools that promote transdisciplinary learning and thinking: such as the introduction of non-GPA computed “Taster” modules which allow students to freely explore various creative disciplines before choosing a specialisation, as well as the use of asynchronous and flipped lessons to help students from different levels of competency learn foundational skills at their own pace; (ii) The alignment of lesson materials, assessments and learning outcomes across the MAD Foundry modules in order to develop transdisciplinary skillsets and mindset; specifically, how students are required to apply their synthesise and apply their learning to a real-world context as they tackle a client brief; (iii) Student performance and feedback from students on their overall learning experience.

Quantitative and qualitative data were gathered from 416 first-year DMAD students through mid-semester and end-of-semester surveys, as well as the Student/Module Feedback exercises conducted every semester. We focused on data and feedback in the following areas: (i) module quality, (ii) perceived relevance to specialisation, and (iii) overall learning experience. The purpose of this is to evaluate whether having a common, integrated curriculum that merges such a broad spectrum of the creative disciplines would indeed promote transdisciplinary thinking, without compromising the quality of teaching and learning. Our analysis shows that students found the quality of the modules high and they enjoyed all the modules in the MAD Foundry, regardless of their intended area of specialisation. They also recognised the benefits of working in mixed groups, and were able to produce very viable and innovative solutions to an industry-based brief on a complex social issue. However, it was noted that students intending to specialise in more broad-based disciplines (e.g. integrated marketing and communication) tended to see greater relevance in the modules than those intending to specialise in niche areas (e.g. music and animation).

The results of this study on the MAD Foundry suggests that a more integrated approach to designing the curriculum for the creative disciplines is effective in promoting cross-disciplinary learning and transdisciplinary thinking, without compromising on the quality of teaching and learning for students.


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Applied Learning Conference 2022, 20-21 January 2022, Online

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