Designing Your Life at National Taiwan University
Traditional education in Taiwan is exam-oriented, and students are assigned to different schools and majors based on their scores on the college entrance exam. The education system incentivizes students to solely focus on test preparation in order to maximize their standardized test scores. As a result, many students don’t have an opportunity to explore and develop their purpose and interests in school. Education reforms have long been a challenge, and National Taiwan University (NTU), Taiwan’s leading higher education institution, has experimented with different ways to innovate education. Designing Your Life is one of them.
Team Draft, a spin-off from NTU, has been exploring Designing Your Life since 2017. In the summer of 2018, Team Draft and Dr. Shi-Wei Chu, a professor in NTU Physics Department and NTU D-School invited Stanford Life Design Lab lecturer John Armstrong to the NTU D-School for three 5-day workshops to introduce Designing Your Life to NTU and begin to build up a Life Design community in Taiwan.
The workshops were 5 days each with more than 80 participants from diverse backgrounds. Through the lens of storytelling, attendees mined, crafted, and developed their personal narratives. And through stories, participants connected, bonded, and formed a community. Usually, a conversation between a second-year college student and a 50-year-old senior executive would be one-way and stressful, with the executive doing nearly all the talking. However, these conversations were mutual during the workshops. As one participant shared, “I wasn’t expecting to have such a genuine talk with these young minds, and I’ve truly learned a lot from their perspectives.”
The workshops also helped participants reframe certain ways of thinking about life as well. For example, networking typically has a negative connotation in Taiwan, and people connect it with the phrase to 靠關係 (Kao-Kuan-Hsi), which means using people to get to someone or somewhere else. However, the phrase was reframed as an opportunity to allow people inside a community to help people from outside the community find their way. The community itself also benefits from networking. With the new interpretation in mind, participants became more proactive in reaching out and connecting with others.
With a goal to explore more on how Life Design could fit into Asian and Taiwanese education contexts, Team Draft and Dr. Shi-Wei Chu wanted to do more. In fall 2018, the team rolled out an 18-week long Designing Your Life class in the NTU D-School, with several participants from the summer workshops returning as facilitators. “The workshops in the summer were extremely helpful,” said Alex Tsai, a member in the NTU Designing Your Life teaching team. “They really opened our eyes on instructional design. We now also take the emotional arc into account when we design our classes, and we modularize the classes to make them more flexible.”
The workshops and classes are only the first steps. In the future, we hope more conversations on life and vocational wayfinding will happen on campus in Taiwan.