Using TAG & Case Studies to Teach Ethics to Design Students
Susan Ray-Degges, Ph.D. | North Dakota State University
Overview: To connect with students and foster their engagement in learning, case studies focusing on ethics in interior design were used to transform a difficult lecture topic into an activity that would engage students’ interest in the profession. Challenging students to respond to ethical situations, the process not only indicates how well the students understand the material, but improves their ability to make connections among various concepts and synthesize information in a new way. Students finish their draft case studies and pair up to TAG each other’s writing. Modeled after peer assessment, TAG feedback includes three components: T – Tell something that you liked and clearly understood in the case study, and explain why you liked it; A – Ask a question to better understand the case presented; and G – Give a suggestion to help make the case even better (Laffin, 2017).
Students often dislike the peer review process, but given the opportunity to use a guided format such as TAG, they are less likely believe their peers are unqualified to review or assess their work (Brammer & Rees, 2007). Students may also consider their peers’ feedback useful and positive. Using peer assessment, students not only enhance their own case studies, but improve their ability to provide constructive verbal and written criticism. As an additional tool for encouraging students to be independent learners, peer assessment can also set the stage for students to develop a capacity for lifelong learning.
Level: Third-year students
Duration: One 2-hour lecture session
Learning Objectives: TAG or Peer-to-Peer feedback will allow students to:
- Demonstrate effective communication.
- Model constructive verbal and written criticism.
- Assess and defend professional ethics and conduct.
- Develop lifelong skills in providing feedback to others and in self-assessment to improve their own work.
The TAG (Tell, Ask, Give) guided feedback process is modeled after peer assessment (Laffin, 2017). Peer assessment involves the assessment of fellow classmates’ writing and presentation followed by the provision of feedback (Wen et al., 2006). When peers interact with each other to assess their work, they improve their skills in critiquing and evaluating their own work (self-assessment) (Vickerman, 2009). Nicol and MacFarlane-Dick (2006) suggest that successful feedback strengthens a student’s ability to self-regulate their performance as a student and to take control of their own learning.
The use of case studies (also called case method) as a teaching approach allows students to examine a specific situation or real-life scenario in the profession (Popil, 2011). Cases studies are designed to require students to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate issues relevant to a given scenario, and identify the best possible solution (Kunselman, & Johnson, 2004). A case study approach creates dynamic student engagement as complex issues are explored (Popil, 2011).
Combined with the use of case studies, the TAG process provides a unique opportunity to enhance student learning and development. While focused on ethics in the interior design profession for this example, it has potential for many applications in the design curriculum.
Student teams complete an analysis of an interior design ethics case study in teams of 2 or 3. Prior to this assignment, students have received an overview of the ethics of design, and have completed assigned readings related to ethics in the profession.
Students choose preselected case study topics on interior design scenarios that include biased marketing campaigns, installation dilemmas, and inaccurate professional qualification/experience information; these are taken from:
- Chapter 3 of Christine Piotrowski’s Professional practice for interior designers (2015 - 5th edition)
- Chapter 6 of Deborah Long’s Ethics and the design profession (2000)
Using these topics, students develop their ethics case study during allocated class time, and include the following elements:
- A general introductory statement for the case study and a response to guiding questions.
- A description of how their responses connect assigned readings in the American Society of Interior Designers Code of Ethics & Professional Conduct, and the International Interior Design Association Code of Ethics for Professional and Associate Member Conduct.
- An exploration of outside sources to validate discussion.
- In-text citations and a reference list, both in APA format.
- A final document formatted as follows: title page (include assignment name and student(s) names; 1 page minimum for each case study; 12-point font; 1-inch margins; double spaced; reference page (only one reference page is necessary for the case study, and it does not count as part of the 1-page minimum requirement for the case study).
The instructor “drops” into the breakout room (if using a virtual platform) or visits student teams in a face-to-face classroom setting midway through the class time to monitor case study progress. When a draft case study is completed, student teams TAG another team to complete an in-progress peer assessment of the ethics case study. Student teams update the case study based on TAG feedback, incorporating referencing and formatting requirements before final submission.
Students dislike the traditional peer review process, but when given the opportunity to use a directed format such as TAG they develop a “scholarly camaraderie” (Gooblar, 2017, para. 1). Peer assessment through the TAG process allows students to develop confidence in subject content and independent learning. Setting up this type of peer-to-peer review structure helps students feel comfortable communicating and receiving constructive criticism and increases the chance they will make further connections with the complexity of ethical decision making that must be applied in the profession. While presented as an ethics case study exercise, the TAG process could be transferable to other topics as an instructor considers the curricular learning outcomes for a particular assignment or project. As instructors continue to seek ways to encourage students to be independent learners, peer assessment can also set the stage for students to develop the capacity for lifelong learning.
American Society of Interior Designers. (2017, December). Code of ethics & professional conduct. https://www.asid.org/resources/about/ethics
Brammer, C. & Rees, M. (2007). Peer review from the students’ perspective: Invaluable or invalid?. Composition Studies, 35(2), 71-85. https://www.jstor.org/stable/43501704
Gooblar, D. (2017, March 1). Why students hate peer review. Chronicle of Higher Education. https://community.chronicle.com/news/1718-why-students-hate-peer-review
International Interior Design Association. (n.d.). Code of ethics for professional and associate member conduct. https://iida.org/memberships/professional
Kunselman, J. C., & Johnson, K. A. (2004). Using the case method to facilitate learning. College Teaching, 52(3), 87–92. https://doi.org/10.3200/CTCH.52.3.87-92
Laffin, J. (2017, November 29). TAG Me!: Student to student feedback in writing. Teach Write. https://www.teachwrite.org/post/2017/11/29/tag-me-student-to-student-feedback-in-writing
Long, D. H. (2000). Ethics and the design profession. National council for interior design qualification.
Nicol, D., & Macfarlane, D. D. (2006). Formative assessment and self‐regulated learning: a model and seven principles of good feedback practice. Studies in Higher Education, 31(2), 199–218. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075070600572090
Piotrowski, C.M. (2015). Professional practice for interior designers (5th ed.). John Wiley.
Popil, I. (2011). Promotion of critical thinking by using case studies as teaching method. Nurse Education Today, 31(2), 204–207. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nedt.2010.06.002
Vickerman, P. (2009). Student perspectives on formative peer assessment: An attempt to deepen learning? Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 34(2), 221-230. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602930801955986
Wen, M.L., Tsai, C., & Chang, C. (2006). Attitudes towards peer assessment: A comparison of the perspectives of pre-service and in-service teachers. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 43(1), 83–92. https://doi.org/10.1080/14703290500467640