Using Architecture Design Studio Pedagogies to Enhance Engineering Education

Shannon Chance IJEEI’m celebrating the publication of a new journal article today, with the help of Sally O’Neill. She’s one of the librarians here at DIT, and she secured permission and posted the article on DIT’s website, making it free for you and anyone else to download.

The publishing process is glacially slow. I submitted the paper in March 2014, based on a conference paper delivered in 2013. And here I am, in February 2016, with the final publication finally in hand.

Many time, in research, it takes time to see the results of your work. Seeing this in print helps make all these days, sitting at a computer analyzing text, feel more worthwhile. Once I can see that people are downloading it, and once I start getting feedback and citations in other people’s research papers, I’ll celebrate some more.

I know what I’ve learned through this research is useful, because I get to apply it in the classroom and in the design studio. The rewards of printed research are more slow to crystallize but also extremely important, especially for people who want to gain credibility in research and build a career around research.

This new article, written with the help of John Marshall in Michigan and Gavin Duffy here in Dublin, is about Using Architecture Design Studio Pedagogies to Enhance Engineering Education. Simply put, we believe that design education and hands-on forms of learning can help improve the quality and experience of learning in engineering and other STEM disciplines. The results reported in this paper provide support for that claim.

To give you a feel for what I’m describing, this is how we learn in architecture:

Above are pictures from design studios in Lisbon at IST and one for a study abroad program  offered by Hampton University. Very, very hands-on!

These days I’m helping promote similar ways of teaching engineering, which looks similar in many respects:

These are photos from electrical and mechanical engineering projects I’ve helped conduct at Dublin Institute of Technology.

This brand new article is about a specific design studio, conducted at the University of Michigan, that blurred the boundaries distinguishing art and science. It involved students and teachers from architecture, materials science engineering, and art+design working together to design and build “SmartSurfaces.” The paper reports learning outcomes — things the students learned in the  class — as illustrated by the blogs they posted during the semester. Here’s a glimpse of what that experience was like for those students:

For this new paper, I created a matrix to describe design behaviors in relationship to epistemological development (which has to do with how we view knowledge). I compared what the students wrote in their blogs to the definitions in my chart. Doing this, I was able to identify development of design skills as a result of students working in groups, and I even pinpointed some instances of epistemological development. John and Gavin helped check the work so that it would be more credible and reliable. They offered perspectives of insiders in the studio (John) and outsiders interested in group-based learning, Problem Based Leaning (PBL), engineering education, and epistemological development (Gavin).

This article should be of interest to any teacher who wants to help students develop new design, design thinking, or epistemological skills. Please feel free to read it and email me any questions you have, at irelandbychance [at] gmail [dot] com.

Chance, S., Marshall, J. and Duffy, G. (2016) Using Architecture Design Studio Pedagogies to Enhance Engineering EducationInternational Journal of Engineering Education Vol. 32, No. 1(B), pp. 364–383, 2016.

Activating an Embankment

Viewing the site from across the Tiber, with Daisy.

Viewing the site from across the Tiber, with Prof. Daisy Williams.

On my first night in Rome, University of Oregon Prof. Daisy Williams took me to see the site in Rome that her students are using for their architectural design project. It’s across the Tiber River from where we’re standing in the above photo.

The site comes to life in the summer–in a way I’d not gotten to see before.  (I usually visit Rome in May, before the walkway becomes active.)  I’ve included photos of our visit to the waterfront, so you can join us on our tour.

Prof. Williams has asked her students to re-design the embankment wall in this area, so that it can be used for screening films, and so that it connects street and water-front walkways more comfortably.

You can see from the image above that the walkway often floods. This is an issue the students need to take into account in their designs.

Student-Centered and Urban: Architectural Education at IST

The second stop of my Fulbright Inter-Country Lecturing visit was to the Instituto Superior Técnico (IST). One of the organizers of the day, José Figueiredo, explained to me that IST “is the biggest and oldest engineering school in Portugal.”

Professor Teresa Heitor lined up all kinds of fascinating events for me.  The 60 first year architecture students presented their work to me (in English!).  Then, they came along as their professors gave me a tour of all the architecture studios.  We got a glimpse of what these particular students will encounter in the coming years, as they progress through the five-year architecture program at IST.

Their architectural education will be structured very, very much like ours in the USA.

Their design assignments will be quite similar as well, although the projects students encounter here do tend to have more of an urban focus than most programs I’ve visited in the US.  (I serve on architectural accrediting teams and have visited many different schools in the US through conferences as well as accreditation visits.  I have to say, however, that my home institution–Hampton University–has done a noteworthy job over the past decade of integrating urbanism into the curriculum.  Of that, I have been proud.)

At IST, I was particularly impressed with what I learned from the first year professors.  They’re doing a great job overcoming what I see as a big weakness in architectural education today.  So many teachers around the globe focus on teaching students to make “signature buildings” and “modernist masterpieces” that other architects will love.

These teachers, instead, endeavor to draw out their students’ unique interests and abilities.  Unlike the many teachers who seemingly want to “wipe the slate clean”, these professors seek to help students draw from the wealth of experience and knowledge they bring to the first year design studio.