Doctoral Candidate engages students in the “in-between” through a Transdisciplinary Design Studio

Paper sculptures created by students during a "dimensional thinking" lession

Kelly Guyotte, a doctoral candidate in the Lamar Dodd School of Art, explores synergistic learning through teaching in a Transdisciplinary Design Studio. The studio is part of a larger project funded by the National Science Foundation.

The Transdisciplinary Design Studio allows faculty from various disciplines, including the College of Engineering, the Lamar Dodd School of Art, and the College of Education, to immerse students in an interdisciplinary experience through a curriculum that promotes creative thinking.

“Essentially,” Guyotte says, “we posed open-ended problems to the students and asked them to re-frame the problems, explore them holistically, and represent their explorations through visual art exhibits.”

Visual exhibit from an introductory design challenge. All trash used in the project was collected along the banks of the North Oconee River.

Working in the design studio allows students from various related majors, including those studying Environmental and Civil Engineering, Landscape Architecture, and Art Education, to experience what working in a transdisciplinary environment will be like after graduation.

As a student in Guyotte’s class explained, “working in an interdisciplinary studio allowed me to see what it will be like in the ‘real’ world when I am not just working with other engineers, but a variety of people with different job titles and different life experiences.”

“As instructors, we strove to cultivate a space where students could break down disciplinary walls and wander in and out of different ways of knowing,” Guyotte says.

While teaching the course, Guyotte became especially intrigued by the transdisciplinary nature, or “in-between” roles, the students took on while in the design studio.

“For me, the 'in-between' is the space through which our students construct themselves; it is where they become aware of their thinking and their creativity; it is the space where they reside, perceiving it as temporary yet slowly discovering that it is permanent.”

It was this idea of the “in-between” that influenced Guyotte’s dissertation research, which is focused on how students conceptualize and tell stories of the studio as an in-between space through written and visual modalities and how students discuss their conceptions of professional identity and creative process as they reside “in-between.”

“It is through the construct of the in-between that I seek to understand the experiences of students as they navigate through a complex, provocative, and nebulous educational space,” said Guyotte.

Guyotte studies this research area through focus groups, reflective papers, and additional course documents. Guyotte also encourages her students to reflect, create, explore, and document their experiences through a visual journal, a hybrid between the artist’s sketchbook and the write’s reflective journal.

Kelly Guyotte's visual research journal

“The in-between represents so many concepts in my study as it conjures up notions of the students as in-process beings, the design studio as comprising an in-between space between disciplines, being in the midst as creating an in-between amongst researcher and participant, and even the data in my study as inhabiting the visual and verbal in-between.”

Guyotte hopes to use her research to increase support for STEAM, an education program combining science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) with the arts.

“These are incredible opportunities for creativity, open-ended explorations, and connectedness between disciplines when we approach education in a holistic way,” said Guyotte.

Guyotte plans to graduate this spring and has accepted a position at the University of Alabama as an Assistant Professor of Educational Research in the College of Education.