Academic journal article International Education Studies

Lifelong Learning in Architectural Design Studio: The Learning Contract Approach

Academic journal article International Education Studies

Lifelong Learning in Architectural Design Studio: The Learning Contract Approach

Article excerpt


Avant-garde educational systems are striving to find lifelong learning methods. Different fields and majors have tested a variety of proposed models and found varying difficulties and strengths. Architecture is one of the most critical areas of education because of its special characteristics, such as learning by doing and complicated evaluation and assessment methods. A learning contract is an alternative way to track students' progress and evaluate their achievements while serving as an agreement on learning goals. Results from studies in other fields have confirmed the positive impact of learning contract on students' learning needs, confidence, and motivation, and thus prompting us to implement this model in architectural design studio. In an implemented contract with the studio, students were asked to use the existing possibility of a contract to perform self-assessment, examine their progress, and identify whether the learning contracts were deficient or whether they would like to continue developing more expertise by using same method. Results show the students' positive feedback on the use of learning contract and how it accommodates their individual learning needs.

Keywords: lifelong learning, learning contract, architecture education

1. Introduction

Architecture education is historically known as an apprenticeship system, which means that instmctors create objectives and learning activities, and deliver them to the studio members. Only one project or work may be provided, or more than one project of a smaller scale may be given sequentially to students. Students expose themselves to professional critiques or peer reviews to gain skills and acquire knowledge. This process means that, through controlled conduct, students will learn what they are expected to do. During critique sessions, students are informed about both their wrong and correct decisions and are prepared to make a self-critique before presenting their projects to the jury. Therefore, critiques in the studio should help students develop their own critical faculties. The problem arises when students try to fulfill the tutor's demands to improve their projects and receive better marks. At first glance, this reaction does not seem problematic because students get to identify the problems in their projects and find ways to solve them. However, what actually takes place is passive didactic learning. Students make designs unconsciously, become unprepared, and make coincidental decisions in their future experiences. As a result, students would not know how to start, develop, and find solutions for multilayered project requirements and manage the inevitable consequences of their decisions in new projects.

On the other hand when these students graduate from the school they will find the job seeking atmosphere intense and competitive. Fresh architects are in need of special skills called soft skills; such as diligence, independence, effective communication skills, team spirit, strong leadership skills, creativity, and critical thinking (Che-Ani et al., 2014a). As Hassanpour (2013) mentioned, architecture education tends to be didactic because of the passive role of students in the learning process. However, it is expected to shift from didactic to interactive teaching and learning education (Hassanpour, 2013).

To change the roles of students in design studios from passive to interactive, researchers have studied a broad spectrum of important factors and critical points, and have presented different types of design studios and methods of teaching. A considerable number of studies on the architectural jury system and design review processes have discussed the merits and demerits of the jury system, explored its underlying communication mechanisms, and suggested possible ways to improve the current critique and assessment models. The classical writings of Schon (1983, 1985, 1987), Anthony (1987, 1991), and Dutton (1987) appear to be the most cited and most influential, with a strong influence on other publications. …

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