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.

Constructing our Reality

Last week I got to talk with a group of 60+ architecture students and faculty about design thinking, student development theory, and my Fulbright research… as well as how they connect to what we do in our department at Hampton University.  Moments like these help us reflect on what we are.  I hope they will also encourage my compatriots to explore ideas about what we want to become.

My current research is situated in the constructivist paradigm.  What does that mean?

Well, my research ideas and techniques are founded on the principle that we humans construct the world around us — including the things we see and touch, how we know, and what we know — and that we are able to generate new knowledge.

By discussing such topics, and considering collectively what it means to “design” and to “know” and to “learn,” we can become more international, purposeful, and effective in the things we do each day.

One of our students, Rhama Mohammed, snapped some photos during the talk and loaded them into our Facebook page (I’m posting copies here).  This provides a little glimpse of our department’s reality… surrounded by teachers (unfortunately, we don’t have images of any students in the crowd)… and a highly animated presenter.

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.