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Approaches to learning in architectural design - a classification

Iyer, Ashok 2017. Approaches to learning in architectural design - a classification. In: Martindale, Kat and Dixon, Dylan eds. President's Award for Research 2017: Book of Abstracts, London: RIBA, p. 65.

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Students’ approaches to learning has been classified through their experiences in the design coursework within the larger context of architectural education. What are the learning approaches being adopted by students in architectural design and how design-theory introduced in first year design coursework has an impact on their approaches to learning in the subsequent years are key to this classification. This research reflects on why learning approaches evolve from the first to the final year of the architecture program. Approaches to learning have been well-understood in other disciplines including engineering, information technology, mathematics and sciences to name a few, but less-researched in architectural education. The current research endeavours to fill this gap. The students are introduced to various theoretical constructs as a part of their design coursework in the architecture curriculum. This research vehicle of the design theory-based model has been identified as a more appropriate way of classifying learning approaches instead of history, critical theory and technology as architectural design coursework has played a central role in the studio-based program. The academic context has been reviewed through existing literature with a focus on learning approaches in architectural education, the design studio and the prevailing schools of thought with reference to the undergraduate curriculum. In addition, the research has focused on the identified learning approaches within other disciplines through the qualitative research methodology of phenomenography. This classification is a consolidation of the pilot study on students’ learning comparing the first and fourth year of the architecture program that has derived six categories of learning approaches through phenomenography, representing a broader spectrum with reference to the recognized ‘deep,’ ‘surface’ and ‘strategic’ approaches to learning. The physical domain for this classification includes undergraduate architecture programs offered at four schools from an international perspective including the United States of America, United Kingdom and India. Research Statement: (990 Words) Students’ approaches to learning in higher education have been expressed as surface and deep approaches (Ference Marton & Säljö, 1976), with strategic approach being the third category (Biggs, 1987; Moon, 2004). The research has focused on classifying the architecture students’ learning approaches using phenomenography, a qualitative research methodology to map the experiences of the research participants based on their understanding of the phenomenon. These experiences are reflected as the categories of description with reference to the phenomenon in question, further represented as the outcome space in the final analysis. Learning approaches in various fields of higher education using phenomenography and literature review with an emphasis on design education have pointed towards the requirement of further research to be undertaken in architectural education (Bailey, 2002; Drew, Bailey, & Shreeve, 2001; A. Iyer & Roberts, 2014; A. G. Iyer, 2015; Trigwell, 2002). The pilot study on a comparative analysis of first and fourth year design students’ learning approaches using phenomenography has identified a broader spectrum of six approaches that are available for classification in architectural education (A. Iyer & Roberts, 2014). Approach A Series of steps taken from introduction of the design problem to completion of the final solution with emphasis on presenting a consistent output and preparing a good portfolio Approach B Trying to understand architecture using experiences of faculty as a scaffold or using their instructions to present the learning outcome Approach C Evolving perceptions of architecture by adopting series of steps in the design process based on a product-focused outcome. Approach D Focus on evolving the perceptions of architecture through the process of design which is based on a process-focused outcome Approach E Conceptualizing thought process in evolution of architecture based on in-depth experiences correlative to perceptual psychology within the student’s experience Approach F Conceptual and abstract focus towards design based on innately creative and experiential level of understanding architecture Six Categorized approaches to learning adopted by First and Forth Year Architecture Students (A. Iyer & Roberts, 2014) These identified categories are connected to deep, strategic and surface learning approaches and their manifestation in architecture education, thus pointing to the requirement for further classification. It also raises a question on do these categorized approaches form different points on a continuum between deep, strategic and surface division or are these categories in a different dimension (A. G. Iyer, 2015). The research vehicle of design-theory introduced in architectural design and its impact on the students’ learning approaches in subsequent years has been used for this classification. The paradox of students’ learning in the architectural design studio is the starting point for this classification which draws a parallel on ‘what is it that is required to be learnt?’ The end point is the tutor teaching in architectural education based on a contrasting hypothesis of ‘what is it that needs to be taught?’ The curriculum, design studio and design coursework have been revisited on numerous occasions to understand the parallels for the latter question with the focus of architectural research being represented in four directions including academic, craft, technological and sociological pedagogic perspectives (A. Salama, 1995; A. M. A. Salama & Wilkinson, 2007; Schon, 1983, 1985). This classification will help in developing a taxonomy of students’ approaches to learning based on their experiences of the design coursework through the question of what are the approaches to learning being adopted by the students in architectural design. It has been further explored by understanding how design-theory introduced in the first year impacts on their learning approaches in subsequent years? The cross-sectional data collected has represented the final question on how do approaches to learning evolve in the design coursework from the first-to-final year of the program. The data collection for this classification has included a cross-sectional sample of students’ interviews from first-to-fifth year to understand their learning approaches in architectural design. These one-to-one semi-structured interviews with the students’ cohort chart their learning experiences using phenomenography at two schools of architecture in the United States of America, and one school each in United Kingdom and India. The final categories of description and outcome space have been presented through manual and computer analysis to determine the students’ learning approaches using the qualitative research tool, NVivo 10. The outcome space for this emerging classification has been presented through the analyzed learning experiences as a series of virtual students’ case studies. These perspectives represent the classification of students’ learning in the architecture program captured through the data collection at the four schools and analyzed using phenomenography. Eight scenarios of virtual students’ case studies have emerged from this classification that will further expand the understanding of their learning approaches in the design coursework with a shift in focus from product-based outcomes towards experiential outcomes in architectural education. Student-1 Surface level strategic learning with understanding of architecture as building-specific from academic and craft-based approach Student-2 Strategic learning with focus on architecture from technical and technological specification of building Student-3 Strategy-based deep approach to learning with holistic understanding of built-environment Student-4 Strategic approach to learning with focus on industry and profession-based requirements for architectural practice Student-5 Deep approaches to learning architectural design by amalgamating academic, craft, technological and sociological facets of the built environment Student-6 Deep level strategic learning with holistic understanding of built-environment from technological and sociological facets Student-7 Deep approaches to learning with holistic understanding of built-environment from academic, craft, technological and sociological perspectives from first to fifth year Student-8 Surface approaches to learning with basic understanding of building from academic and craft-based perspectives from first to fifth year The limitations for this research included the literature review with its focus on learning approaches identified in other design fields including professional and higher education, but with few connected strands within architectural education. The data collected at the four schools was based on an academic year-based cross-section with the phenomenographic analysis being a process of discovery. The question of replicability as a reliability test for these qualitative research findings is therefore not applicable. The future directions includes linguistic analysis and further research on the identified classification of learning approaches through outcome-based education within the architectural context.

Item Type: Book Section
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Architecture
Subjects: N Fine Arts > NA Architecture
Publisher: RIBA
Last Modified: 16 Apr 2020 13:28

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