Architects Love School, why not teach engineers a similar way?

When I started studying “higher education” as a PhD subject at William and Mary in 2006, I wondered why architecture students seem so engaged–passionate and persistent–and why engineering didn’t use the same methods that seem so “sticky” and engaging.

I’m still asking these questions.

I explore them in the article “Using Architecture Design Studio Pedagogies to Enhance Engineering Education” which I wrote with John Marshall, The University of Michigan 
and Gavin Duffy, Technological University Dublin. It has been published for a while, and I just noticed that since the embargo period has ended, I can direct you to the final version instead of just the pre-press version! It was published by the International Journal of Engineering Education. 

https://arrow.dit.ie/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1117&context=engscheleart2

The abstract explains:

“Problem-Based Learning pedagogies that require high levels of inquiry and hands-on engagement can enhance student learning in engineering. Such pedagogies lie at the core of studio-based design education, having been used to teach architects since the Renaissance. Today, design assignments and studio-based learning formats are finding their way into engineering programs, often as part of larger movements to implement Student-Centered, Problem-Based Learning (PBL) pedagogies. This spectrum of pedagogies is mutually supportive, as illustrated in the University of Michigan’s SmartSurfaces course where students majoring in engineering, art and design, and architecture collaborate on wickedly complex and ill-defined design problems. In SmartSurfaces and other similar PBL environments, students encounter complex, trans-disciplinary, open-ended design prompts that have timely social relevance.

“Analyzing data generated in studio-based PBL courses like SmartSurfaces can help educators evaluate and track students’ intellectual growth. This paper presents a rubric for measuring students’ development of increasingly refined epistemological understanding (regarding knowledge and how it is created, accessed, and used). The paper illustrates use of the tool in evaluating student blogs created in SmartSurfaces, which in turn provides evidence to help validate the rubric and suggest avenues for future refinement. The overall result of the exploratory study reported here is to provide evidence of positive change among students who learn in PBL environments and to provide educators with a preliminary tool for assessing design-related epistemological development. Findings of this study indicate design-based education can have powerful effects and collaborating across disciplines can help engineering students advance in valuable ways.”

DOI

10.21427/D7V62S

Keywords

Problem-Based Learning, Student-Centered Learning, Design-Based Learning, epistemology, architecture education, design studio pedagogy, engineering education, cognitive development

 

Vantage Points

What you see depends upon where and how you look....

What you see depends upon where and how you look….

In engineering, the teaching-from-the-podium-by-manual-and-textbook approach simply isn’t working.  It’s not attracting enough students to study engineering.  It’s not engaging and fascinating enough of them.  It’s not spurring their creative thinking skills in enough ways.

I’m clearly not the only one who has noticed this.  The National Science Foundation and oodles of engineering scholars agree.  And now that the engineering profession — as a group of individuals bound by common knowledge, education, and language — has come to acknowledge these shortcomings, it is time to address the problems head-on.

Fergus Whelan commented that I need to think outside this box....  Thanks to Frank Daly for the fabulous photo.

Not liking to be trapped inside the box….

Making such a change is difficult.  It’s messy and complex.  It requires thinking outside the vocabulary and methods that created the profession in the first place. In line with the old cliché: engineering has to starting thinking outside its own box.  Most people today agree: We need engineers to see and think in new ways.  And indeed, many teachers are:

  • working to prompt the needed type of thinking in engineering
  • testing new teaching methods
  • working to evaluate results

I am one of them.

I have two sets of skills that I am hoping can help in positive ways.  First, I’m an architect and seasoned educator.  Second, I’m an education researcher.  From this vantage point, I see that engineering (programs and pedagogies) can benefit from what architecture programs do.

The architecture profession, for instance, has always used hands-on teaching.  Architecture schools are full of students and full of creative energy.  Architecture and engineering aren’t so different, yet our ideas about what they “are” differ, and the way they are taught differs as well

“Engineering,” I insist, can benefit from design thinking, from techniques used in design education, and from sharing ideas with architects as well.  Upcoming blogs will explain how.


Below is a little gallery of recent research activities, including a short promo video (shot with my iPad in a single take) for our RoboSlam exhibit this weekend’s Dublin Maker event.