Power, Jess (2014) A New Methodology for the Integration of Performance Materials into the Clothing Curriculum. In: Proceedings of The 89th Textile Institute World Conference. TIWC 2014 . The Textile Institute, Wuhan, China, pp. 538-543. ISBN 9781510840782

This paper presents a model for integrating the study of performance materials into the clothing curriculum. In recent years there has been an increase in demand for stylish, functional and versatile sports apparel. Analysts predict this will reach US$126.30 billion by 2015. This growth is accredited to dramatic lifestyle changes and increasing participation in sports/leisurely pursuits particularly by women. The desire to own performance clothing for specific outdoor pursuits is increasing as it becomes more mainstream and affordable. There is a distinct blurring of lines as fashion/clothing designers enter the niche market of performance apparel. This results in a strong business case for embedding advanced product development and the study of performance materials into the undergraduate curriculum for mainstream clothing students.

Traditionally modules within Higher Education are taught as discrete subjects. This has advantages since it enables students to develop knowledge and skills specific to each individual elements of the subject discipline. The expectation is that students will integrate, connect and make sense of all the discrete elements within the various elements of their learning during their studies. Whilst this is the ideal scenario, in practice often the first opportunity to integrate the various elements with a project occurs at final year, through a major project. The purpose of the model presented in the paper was to integrate sections of the curriculum previously taught as separate entities into a single element at second year, using a blended learning approach combining both practice and theory. Thus, providing the opportunity for student to synthesize the knowledge obtained in various elements of their studies and develop an understanding of emerging and new technologies relevant to the creation of specific end-products much earlier within their studies. A series of weekly guest lectures were provided with experts in relation to clothing comfort, advanced textiles, marketing, costing, garment realisation, advanced sewing technology, and innovative design. The students worked in teams to produce a range of garments for specific outdoor pursuits, underpinned by appropriate research. An integrated approach to teaching was adopted as the various team members simultaneously worked on testing performance materials, joining technically advanced fabrics, developing the design and specific stylelines based on ergonomics and investing novel construction methods. This challenged not only academic skills but also lifeskills - teamwork, organisation, communication, negotiation, and problem solving. Teams had to test, re-test and negotiate the most appropriate performance material, joining method, styleline and construction method to make the product fit for the selected advanced application.

The model differs from others in its approach in a number of ways: firstly by utilising fully integrated team teaching, engaging a diverse range of subject experts which enabled the students to extend their network beyond the programme team, reinforcing research informed teaching and the teaching/learning nexus. Secondly active learning was employed as a means of challenging the learner, thus developing life/subject skills through establishing systematic connections of the different elements of their learning. Finally, in establishing knowledge-transfer thorough peer-support and networking, knowledge was exchanged between students as they progressed through the development stages. This paper presents a successful model of blended learning which integrates research, technology, design and practical skills underpinned by the advanced study of textiles which is essential to any clothing curriculum.
Keywords: curriculum design, performance materials, product development

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