Research Projects & Publications

OCAD University faculty and staff engage in a variety of collaborative educational research projects to advance the practice of art and design education and share the results of their scholarly work locally, nationally and internationally.

Current Research Projects

Capturing non-traditional learning as more than a line on a curriculum map

Project team: Joe Lipsett, Beth Hundey (Western University), Karyn Olsen (Western University), Jessie Richards (University of Toronto), Beata Pawlowska (University of Toronto & St. Michael’s Hospital), Jasjit Sangha (University of Toronto), Aron Fazekas (University of Guelph), Kosha Bramesfeld (University of Toronto), Scott Anderson (University of Waterloo)

Curriculum mapping has become common practice in most higher education institutions, occurring at different levels within the institution to serve a variety of purposes. While institutions and governing bodies are increasingly reliant on the results of curriculum mapping, the software and processes associated with mapping often have too rigid a framework. Existing frameworks for curriculum mapping may not capture in meaningful ways learning that occurs outside of coursework, occurs across courses, programs, or other contexts, and/or occurs in informal, non-traditional, or innovative contexts. The purpose of this Council of Ontario Educators’ Caucus (COED) action group is to survey Ontario’s existing program or department-level curriculum mapping processes and outcomes, and to identify ways that curriculum mapping can be improved to capture a wider range of learning outcomes and activities.

Keywords: curriculum mapping, experiential learning, co-op, co-curricular learning

Craft and the “digital challenge”: student experiences of craft and digital technologies in the studio classroom at OCAD University

Project team: Cary DiPietro, Travis Freeman, Lynne Heller, Dorie Millerson, Greg Sims

In the Material Art & Design program, questions regularly arise about what is produced in our studios and whether it can be called craft when one is working with digital tools that appear to produce objects autonomously instead of through embodied making. There is both resistance to and an embrace of digital technologies amongst the community of students, faculty and technicians. Building on a previous research project examining the perspectives of faculty and staff, this study focuses on how students experience and perceive the relationship and possible tensions between digital technologies and craft design and production in the studio classroom, focusing on the benefits and challenges of digital technologies with respect to time, cost, access, health and safety, the affordances of digital technology in relation to innovation, social practice and the variety of ways students learn.

Keywords: craft, design, digital technologies, digital machinery, learning, student experience

Assessing the use and impact of alternative audio and video formats on students’ comprehension of assigned course readings

Project team: Cary DiPietro, Catherine Heard

The research addresses a widely recognized challenge in the classroom: getting students to engage with and complete assigned course readings in ways that enhance their comprehension. While text-to-speech applications and other forms of assistive technology have been shown to benefit students with identified learning needs, the premise of this research project is that all students may benefit from being given options to engage with course readings through alternative audio and video formats. The study will gauge student perception and begin to assess the impact of alternative formats on their reading comprehension.

Keywords: reading comprehension, alternative formats, fair dealing, accessibility

Supporting English Language Learners from the Creative Disciplines in Large Lecture Classes

Project team:  Emilie Brancato, Marie-Josee Therrien

Large-lecture format courses present particular challenges for English language learner (ELL) students, especially when the course contains new disciplinary terminology and unfamiliar social and historical contexts, e.g., students from creative disciplines such as environmental and industrial design engaging with design through the lens of history, a discipline with its own theoretical and communicative conventions. This study seeks to identify the specific language learning needs of ELL students at OCAD U, and to assess the effectiveness of using in-class and low-stakes writing activities to scaffold both language learning and deeper engagement with course content in large-lecture courses.

Keywords:  English Language Learners, large lecture courses, design education, Writing Across the Curriculum

Thinking through drawing: using conceptual drawing exercises in a foundational first-year drawing studio course to develop critical thinking skills (pilot phase)

Project team: Cary DiPietro, Travis Freeman, David Griffin

The goal of this study is to pilot a series of drawing exercises to begin to gauge how and to what extent drawing as a visual practice can be used to contribute to the development of students’ critical thinking skills in a first-year drawing studio course. While a foundational drawing curriculum will typically focus on observational drawing activities and assignments to help students develop and master drawing skills, the premise being tested is that asking students to engage in a variety of conceptual drawing activities may have benefits in relation to the development of critical thinking skills such as problem-solving, relational thinking and inductive/deductive reasoning. In its pilot phase, the study will inform a larger study design.

Keywords: drawing, critical thinking, metacognition, art and design education

OCAD U Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) Initiative: Piloting and implementing best practices for developing undergraduate writing competency for art and design

Project Team: Emilie Brancato, Maya Desai, Bonnie Devine, Cary DiPietro, Pariss Garramone, Simon Glass, David Griffin, Anda Kubis, Ranee Lee, Joni Moriyama, Nancy Snow, Saskia van Kampen, Ken Vickerson

OCAD U’s Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) Initiative supports the development of students’ written and oral communication skills within the disciplines of art and design. This multi-year study involves developing, piloting and implementing writing strategies and resources in order to ensure that implementation of the WAC  initiative is appropriate for and responsive to the needs of faculty and students in art and design disciplines, and to produce discipline-specific data, resources and examples. Faculty across multiple disciplinary fields collaborate with writing specialists to design and test contextually-appropriate writing activities and assignments, gather samples of student writing and review samples to evaluate their effectiveness.

Key words: writing, pedagogy, art and design, Writing Across the Curriculum

Funded Research Projects

DiPietro, C., Ferguson, S., Fisher, D., Langill, C., & Rice, R. (In progress). Framework for Enhancing the Mobility of Indigenous Learners into Art and Design Education. Ontario Council on Articulation and Transfer (ONCAT).

Young, S., DiPietro, C. & Roderick, C.. (2016). Developing and promoting articulation at small universities: A cost-benefit analysis at OCAD University. Ontario Council on Articulation and Transfer (ONCAT).

Carleton University, OCAD University, George Brown College, & Algonquin College. (2015). Integrated Learning Project (ILP). Ontario Council on Articulation and Transfer (ONCAT). OCAD U collaborated in the development an inter-institutional pathway model that can be used by any partnering university and college in Ontario to create a collaborative degree program.

DiPietro, C., Rideout-Santarossa, M., Dayes, S., & Roderick, C.. (2015). Cross-Disciplinary Collaborative Course Design. Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario.

Dayes, S., Rideout-Santarossa, M. & Roderick, C.. (2014). Specialist Service: Faculty Development and Teaching Support for Art and Design Disciplines. Educational Developers Caucus (EDC). The grant enabled the development of SPARK , a teaching resource for faculty in the creative disciplines, compiled and edited by E. Brancato.

Smollet, S., Arakawa, M. & Keefer, K. (2012). Impact of Sheltered ESL Support Programming on Student Engagement and Academic Performance at OCAD University. Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO).


DiPietro, C.,  Ferguson, S., & Grant, R. (Forthcoming). “Writing as making: positioning a WAC initiative to bridge academic discourse and studio learning.” Steven J. Corbett, Jennifer LeMesurier, Teagan E. Decker, & Betsy Cooper (eds.), Writing in and about the Performing and Visual Arts: Creating, Performing, and Teaching. Across the Disciplines Book Series.

Diederichs, R. & Leung, C. (Forthcoming). “Insights from Art & Design Workshops.” Steven J. Corbett, Jennifer LeMesurier, Teagan E. Decker, & Betsy Cooper (eds.), Writing in and about the Performing and Visual Arts: Creating, Performing, and Teaching. Across the Disciplines Book Series.

Presentations and contributions to the field


DiPietro, C., Fitzpatrick, K., Hoessler, C., Richards, J. & Wolf, P. (Forthcoming). Mapping the Canadian curriculum mapping landscape: an emerging national conversation. To be presented at the meeting of the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, Sherbrooke, June 2018.


Brancato, E., DiPietro, C. & Ferguson, S. Writing, Making, Connecting: Collaborative Inquiry and Writing Across the Curriculum in an Art and Design Context. American Educational Research Association (AERA), New York, April, 2018 (paper submitted for presentation).

Freeman, T., & Maher, P. (2017). Critique 2.0: Student-Centered Performative Assessment. Presented at the meeting of the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, Vancouver, June 2017.

Brancato, E., Diederichs, R., & DiPietro, C. (2017). Re-Inventing the University: lessons learned from Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) at OCAD University. Presented at the meeting of the Canadian Writing Centres Association (CWCA), OCAD University, Toronto, May 2017.

DiPietro, C., Ferguson, S., & Grant, R. (2017). Writing as making: positioning a WAC initiative to bridge academic discourse and studio learning. Presented at the meeting for the Canadian Association for the Studies of Discourse and Writing (CASDW), Ryerson University, Toronto, May 2017.

Lipsett, J. (2017). ‘Here's what we do and why we're important’: Creating a Teaching Centre Portfolio. Pre-conference workshop for the annual meeting of the Educational Developers Caucus (EDC), University of Guelph, February, 2017.

Brancato, E., DiPietro, C., & Snow, N. (2017). (re)Designing Institutional Discourses of Academic Integrity: Diversity, Difference, Policy, and Pedagogy. Canadian Association for the Studies of Discourse and Writing (CASDW), Ryerson University, Toronto, May 2017

Black, C., Collins, N., DiPietro C., & van Kampen, S.. Disciplines caught between discourses: Implementing WAC in Art and Design.  Presented at the International Writing Across the Curriculum (IWAC) Conference, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, June 2016.

DiPietro, C. (2016). Moving beyond integrity: Accommodating disciplinary, cultural, linguistic and modal differences in the policy and pedagogy of plagiarism. Presented at the International Writing Across the Curriculum (IWAC) Conference, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, June 2016.

Meadows, K., Miller-Young, J., & Roderick, C. (2016). Supporting your Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Writing. Workshop presented at the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE), Western University, London, June 2016

Young, S., & DiPietro, C. (2016) Assessing the costs and benefits of articulation at OCAD University. ONCAT Student Pathways Conference. Presented at the Ontario Council on Articulation and Transfer (ONCAT) Annual Meeting, Toronto, ON, April 2016.

DiPietro, C. (2015). Using discourses of community to achieve curricular change: A case study of cross-campus initiatives at OCAD University. Presented at the Research on Teaching and Learning Conference, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, December 2015.

Brancato, E., Snow, N., &  van Kampen, S. (2015). Iterative Practice, Iterative Pedagogy: Integrating Writing and Studio Education to Foster Reflective Teaching and Transformative Learning in the First-Year Graphic Design Classroom. Poster presented at Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE) conference, Vancouver British Columbia,  June 2015.

Diederichs, R. (2015) A Tale of Collaboration in Workshop Development and Delivery. Exchange Session presented at the Learning Specialists Association Conference (LSAC) Conference, Guelph, Ontario, May 2015.

DiPietro, C., Ferguson, S., & Grant, R. (2014). A Learning-Outcomes Based Approach to Writing Across the Curriculum. Presented at the Learning Outcome Symposium, Council of Ontario Universities, Toronto, ON, October 2014.