A very important question for any teacher, lecturer, instructor or course leader is to ask: “What do our students want?” in the context of the program and course which is being taught.
There is of course the syllabus which dictates the content of a class, the anticipated learning outcomes and the credit points and it is connected to the degree which itself dictates the mandatory class content. But within these pre-set constrictions it is possible to ask our students about their wishes. And perhaps some of them can be integrated in the course curriculum. There is always an element of freedom and autonomy in fashion class, be it a design class or a marketing class. At the end of a BA or MA course, the students have to show a whole lot of autonomy when they design a final collection or in the fashion marketing programme, have to write an extensive thesis on a topic of their choice.
My latest BA students wanted to write about very diverse and interesting topics ranging from sociological themes such as the politics of dress by female British monarchs as well Princes’ wives which demonstrate a more democratic relation of commoners and royals sartorial choices to marketing topics such as gender marketing targeted towards women in fashion advertising. Yet again another student was interested in the visibility of an iconic creative director in a luxury brand’s marketing communication and brand identity. I am very pleased with the personal choices of topics and the fact that these BA students knew what they wanted to dedicate their extensive thesis to. After all I spent an entire term teaching them various classes and emphasizing on the question: “What do you want?” and fostering curiosity.
In this respect, it payed off to encourage the students to voice their own ideas and curiosity on certain topics. But I will not exclude a scenario where this might backfire. On occasion I meet students who lack initiative, who show no interest in any particular topic and who seem to vegetate through their university degree. On other occasions I meet feisty students who know exactly what they want, make strong demands on their tutors and complain angrily when their wants are not satisfied.
My question to you is thus: Do you ever enquire as to what your students want? Do you encourage them to voice their academic interests and give them a chance to use this interest in a project? Or do you prefer to give the students rigid guidance and pre-determine what topics are available to them?
I am eager to hear about your experience!