Designing experiences: friendship and practical wisdom in the art and design higher education

Broadhead, Samantha ORCID logoORCID: (2016) Designing experiences: friendship and practical wisdom in the art and design higher education. In: Closing the gap: bridges for access and lifelong learning. Forum for Adult and Continuing Education. ISBN 0995492204


The national policy of widening participation for students exists within a competitive and uncertain higher education culture. The impact of this on those who want to become artists and designers and are at the same time labelled as ‘second chance’ or ‘untraditional’ students needs to be examined. This paper analyses the narratives constructed by and between Chad, a post-Access to HE student, and myself, the inquirer, that represent some of her experiences during her BA (Hons) Surface Pattern course. Surface pattern designers are concerned with designing for surfaces and embellishments which could include wallpapers, fabrics, flooring, and packaging. This case study was part of a longitudinal study (2011-14) that sought to investigate the experiences of post-Access students in art and design higher education. The participants were studying on a range of creative degree programmes in various institutional contexts. Narrative inquiry was used to show the ways in which students reflected on and took stock of their educational journeys. The analysis draws upon some of the notions concerned with phronesis (prudence or practical wisdom). Aristotle claimed that only a person of experience can practice practical wisdom, and a young person is unlikely to have extensive life experience, (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book VI, Chapter 8). This discussion recounts some of the critical incidents within Chad’s story where I have noticed evidence of phronesis or at some points the absence of wise judgement. It is suggested that within the context of higher education mature adults sometimes make poor decisions leading them to act in ways that continue their sufferings. This is because they do not exercise their potential to act with prudence, (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book VI, Chapter 5). Chad offers an explanation of why this maybe so at the end of her story where she describes the culture of her course as being very competitive and not conducive to her thinking and acting well for herself and others.

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