The Design Critique and the Moral Goods of Studio Pedagogy

Part of my work in studio curriculum has been to try and understand better what it means to be a studio instructor. This is a very personal question to me. Since I am a studio instructor myself I’m curious about whether my experiences are normal, whether my struggles are typical, and whether there is anything I can learn from other teachers about how to cope with the challenges of a very difficult, but very rewarding, way of teaching. This paper is one of the ways I’ve gone about building my understanding. It’s a phenomenological look into what my co-author (a student research assistant) and I call a world of significance for studio instructors (borrowing the term from Hubert Dreyfus). I’m quite proud of this paper. I hope you enjoy it.

Update: May, 16, 2020. This week Esther and I were notified that this paper was nominated as one of six finalists for the best paper of 2019 in the journal Design Studies.


In this paper we inquire into the moral goods that are significant for design studio instructors, by examining how they talk about the way critiques fit into the studio as a social practice. We studied this issue using in-depth interviews with six studio instructors. Through these interviews, we found that critiques are how they structure the studio so they can pursue three types of moral goods: a) for student development; b) for their own self-cultivation; and c) for other stakeholders. Along with presenting these goods, we discuss what instructors say about multiple goods exerting influence on them at the same time. Finally, we discuss implications these findings have for understanding the studio environment, and why critiques matter within this environment.

At ResearchGate


At BYU Scholar’s Archive


McDonald, J. K., & Michela, E. (2019). The design critique and the moral goods of studio pedagogy. Design Studies62, 1–35.