I am a part-time instructor at Vancouver Institute of Media Arts, a post-secondary school that offers one-year diploma programs and degree pathways in visual, media and performing arts.  

I teach the following courses on the Web Development & Interactive Design Diploma Program:

  • Design Concepts 1
  • Interface Planning & Design
  • UX Design for Web & Mobile

I am open to part-time teaching and speaking engagements. Please reach out to me at contact.ayshasamrin@gmail.com

My Teaching Philosophy

I was fortunate enough to have been taught by some excellent artists and designers whose teaching methods enhanced my learning. My teachers, professors and mentors believed that higher education is about going beyond content mastery. They created a learning environment that fostered critical thinking and problem solving. They encouraged self-directed learning, and natural curiosity in and beyond the classroom. I have adopted this standard set by my teachers and mentors directly into my teaching philosophy. 

Design, in a professional sense, has evolved from being merely an artistic activity to being an activity that ‘makes everything possible’. Designers are increasingly being hired to join interdisciplinary teams and help tackle a variety of challenges from social problems and rethinking business plans to advising on economic issues.

Students need to be equipped with a broader range of research and communication skills, alongside their more traditional design skills, and encouraged to look at the ‘bigger picture’ – taking into account multiple stakeholders, and wider social, political and cultural forces that shape what is possible. This is the approach I take in my classroom. 

At the core of my teaching philosophy, there are three overriding principles that I strive for in my classroom: clarity, critical thinking and real world preparation. 

Clarity - in presenting material, in detailing expectations, and in expressing educational goals

One of my goals in all of the courses I teach, especially in lecture format, is that each student develops a strong theoretical foundation about the topic. Often, I find the most effective method of teaching design concepts is supporting theory with real world examples and scenarios that illustrate the topic. For example, in my Design Concepts 1 class, when teaching students about the concept of “contrast” in design, I share with my students an anecdote about a client I had early in my career who often asked me to “make the design ‘pop’”. I tell them about how no matter how I changed the layout or colours, I would still receive the feedback to make it “pop”. It took me a while to realize that fine tuning the contrast of my design is what the client meant by asking me to “make it pop”. I support this anecdote with examples of designs that use contrast well to capture the viewers/users attention and ask students to dissect why those designs were successful. 

Design is fundamentally a problem-based discipline that requires students to learn how to use design thinking and concepts to solve problems. Thus, a simple but valuable teaching instrument is allowing class time for students to work on problems related to the material just presented. This allows them an opportunity to apply what they have just learned and provides me immediate feedback as to how successful the presentation was. With this information, I can make real-time decisions as to whether or not the class is ready to move on to new information. 

One of the things I appreciated during my time as a design student was that my instructors introduced the assignments and assessment criteria early on during the course. This gave me ample time to understand the assignment, expectations and learning outcomes, allowing me to excel in the learning process. I adopted this approach to my teaching style and set expectations early on in my classroom. 

To establish clarity in my teaching, I  take the time to plan highly organized class sessions that allow me to anticipate and address potential misunderstandings, and constantly check with my students to ensure that they understand the material.

Critical thinking - Observe, Question, and Answer

Colours are not just colours and shapes are not just shapes. Designers see the world differently and teaching this way of seeing the world involves training students to learn how to become ‘problem finders’ as well as problem solvers and develop the ability to define the nature of the problem as well as respond to it.  Critical thinking provides a method to explore different situations with eliminating any chances for biases, prejudice, or misleading information. By encouraging students to think critically in the classroom, I try to equip them with the skills needed to explore problems, observe current situations, or find solutions to improve products and services. For example, at the end of every lecture, I include a topic of debate related to what was presented. I encourage students to bring a variety of perspectives to a particular issue and apply critical thinking principles to support their arguments. 

Real world preparation

A part of my final degree requirement for my Bachelors program in Illustration was a 5000 word dissertation on an art or design topic of my choice. I remember wondering how writing 5000 words would make me a better illustrator, and wishing I could spend all that time researching and writing on something more artistic. In retrospect, I understand how such assignments prepared me for design in the real world. 

Design education must build students’ skills in articulating, both visually and verbally, enabling them to communicate their ideas in terms of benefits to users, providers or society more widely. 

To help students prepare to be designers in the real-world, I plan assignments with real world design problems and include key components such as explaining design processes and providing budgets as part of the assessment criteria. 

Designers are entrusted with increasingly complex and impactful challenges and I hope to prepare students for these challenges by empowering them to bring their unique perspective to design challenges.