Demonstration and evaluation in design: debating the use of the master-apprentice model in virtual learning environments

Aysar Ghassan, Cyriel Diels, Alan Barrett

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceedingpeer-review

    2 Citations (Scopus)
    35 Downloads (Pure)


    Rooted in face-to-face teaching, the ‘top-down’ master-apprentice model is the dominant pedagogical approach in design education. Through reflecting on the results from two case studies, we discuss possible advantages and limitations of extending the master-apprentice model to asynchronous Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) with regards two overarching principles of design education— demonstration of skills and evaluation of the aesthetics of students’ designs. This debate is important as universities are predicted to increase their use of VLEs. Case study one describes an online system through which practical skills are demonstrated to students via a ‘master-apprentice style’ approach. Learners’ qualitative feedback suggests this method is beneficial. This infers that the master apprentice method may aid tutors to demonstrate practical skills in VLEs. Case study two describes an empirical investigation in which a homogeneous group of design educators (i.e. design experts) evaluate the aesthetic qualities of transport designs. In identifying a low level of agreement, these results query research which argues that experts are capable of delivering objective evaluations in terms of aesthetics. The results of case study two question how successfully the master-apprentice model can be applied to evaluate aesthetics in VLEs as such environments can lack an opportunity for nuances in communication between tutors and students to be propagated. We conclude by arguing the results presented in this paper may be related to inherent differences between demonstration and evaluation in design. We call for research on how best these constructs may be negotiated in the design of future VLEs.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationDS 78: Proceedings of the 16th International conference on Engineering and Product Design Education (E&PDE14), Design Education and Human Technology Relations
    EditorsErik Bohemia, Arthur Eger, Wouter Eggink, Ahmed Kovacevic, Brian Parkinson, Wessel Wits
    PublisherDesign Society
    ISBN (Print)978-1-904670-56-8
    Publication statusPublished - 2014
    Event16th International conference on Engineering and Product Design - University of Twente, Enschede, Netherlands
    Duration: 4 Sept 20145 Sept 2014

    Publication series

    PublisherDesign Society


    Conference16th International conference on Engineering and Product Design

    Bibliographical note

    This paper was published in the proceedings of the 16th Engineering and Product Design Education conference, copyright © the Design Society.


    • design education
    • asynchronous communication
    • online tutorials
    • design evaluation


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