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K-State Today

December 8, 2016



Linda Duke delivers workshops at Museum of Texas Tech University

By Sarah Hancock

Linda Duke, director of the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art, traveled to Lubbock in November to present two workshops demonstrating visual thinking strategies. The workshops are part of a pilot effort at Texas Tech University to seek National Science Foundation funding to create an experimental graduate engineering curriculum. The aim is to enhance students' ability to reflect on complex problems, including ethical scenarios. The model curriculum will retain expert knowledge and techniques of the field, but add arts and humanities experiences to reinforce the core mission of profession to enhance human well-being.

A collaborative group from the Museum of Texas Tech University, the College of Education, and the departments of environmental engineering and psychology asked Duke to demonstrate visual thinking strategies, an educational methodology based on viewing works of art that helps develop cognitive, observation and communication skills. Visual thinking strategies aim to enable dynamic group problem-solving processes and help participants present their own ideas while respecting and learning from the perspectives of their peers.

As often happens, the two workshop groups somewhat different discussions about the same images. In a few cases, students observed things faculty members didn't. Duke said this demonstrates the fact that people bring unique life experiences to the construction of meaning. At any point, one member may function as a "more capable peer."

Duke said the workshops went well and that she sees concern about many of the same issues at K-State.

"The invitation evidences some parallel thinking on our two campuses: interest in communication and critical thinking across disciplines and using the arts as an arena for people in technical fields to explore the potential of those skills," she said. "Engineers need more than technical skills — they need to weigh and consider the effect of the projects they do. They need to think about history and society, ethics and the environment, and all kinds of other things that are not embodied in the mathematics."