The Imperative for Developing Critical and Creative Thinking Competencies in Postgraduate Design Education



Design Education Research


  • postgraduate studies, creative education, academic integrity


Design education has an integral association with engaging both critical and creative thinking. While the previous critical cross-field outcomes explicitly fostered both critical and creative development (SAQA 2000), the newer level descriptors (SAQA 2012) focus almost exclusively on critical thinking. This could be because critical and creative thinking are often regarded as synonymous. Authors like Macat International Limited (2017) support this understanding by including creative thinking as a component of critical thinking, while other authors differentiate between the two concepts. For example, the World Economic Forum 'Future of Jobs' Report (2016), clearly distinguishes critical from creative thinking and includes both as separate yet integral to future employability and emerging jobs, and the twenty-first-century framework includes critical thinking and creativity as part of its four Cs of interrelated competencies. These frameworks also position design education as highly relevant to future workplaces.

This paper argues that both critical and creative thinking are imperative to academic and future workplace success, particularly in relation to postgraduate studies in design. The revision of Bloom's taxonomy of learning objectives has acknowledged the cognitive complexity of creating (Anderson et al. 2001), but many design educators are ill-equipped to teach critical and creative competencies in tandem. The focus of the NQF level descriptors and assessment criteria are perceived as largely ignoring creative thinking as intrinsic to learning development. Creativity is, therefore, relegated as being part of the hidden rather than explicit curriculum. Though not necessarily specific to postgraduate studies, because the research and professional experience is more developed of the lecturers and supervisors, students often inherit a lack of confidence in engaging these competencies in tandem from their undergraduate learning experience. A less linear hierarchical framework that democratises critical and creative thinking is, therefore, required for the design education context: one that explicitly acknowledges the critical and creative thinking competencies in relation to each other and to design education; and one that is similar to the rhizomatic model proposed by Deleuze and Guattari (1980).

Keywords: postgraduate studies, creative education, design education, academic integrity, design research


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