WICKED PROBLEMS: THE BENEFITS OF PROJECT-BASED LEARNING WITHIN A STUDIO SETTING
Arizona State University (UNITED STATES)
There is an increased interest in recent years to better understand studio-based pedagogy (Orr & Bloxham, 2012). The studio is the foundation for most art and design programs. The studio is many things. It is a space, a class, and a method of instruction. The studio aims to develop a student’s understanding and appreciation of visual form, training him in technical skills and cultivating aesthetic awareness. It is where students begin to understand the discipline and the practices that it entails.
This paper provides historical background and an appraisal of the advantages of learning within a studio. Historically, studios began with the Beaux-Arts educational system. The Ecole des Beaux-Arts school was founded in 1819 as the successor to the French Royal Academy (Architecture, 2000). This approach emphasizes the transfer of knowledge and experience from teacher to student, or master to apprentice. This instructional method quickly spread through Europe and into the United States. This culture of studio education has gone essentially unchanged since that time (Kellogg, 2004).
Studios rely on project-based learning for the bulk of instruction. This is a teaching method in which a specific topic is investigated in depth by single students, small teams, or an entire class. The cornerstone of the studio approach is the “design problem” given to each student at the beginning of the semester. The students follow steps to analyze the design and then continue to develop the design under the supervision of master artists and architects (Architecture, 2000). Real-world projects are often used as a motivating learning context and even allow students to engage with their community (W. Bender, 2012). The design problems assigned in studios are often ill-defined or wicked, which by definition have no determined and logical result. These types of problems are less art, but not quite science, and require talent and creativity to solve (Casakin & Kreitler, 2005). This is often a complex problem with many process variations. “The more complex the problem, in general, the more varied the possible solutions” (Hinton, 1968, p. 137).Instructors often use wicked problems as an avenue to reach the true goal – to have students learn a personal process and a way of thinking about design (Ochsner, 2000).
Studio based pedagogy has advantages, such as team learning, personal motivation, real-world applications, and self-discovery. Students learn to communicate, collaborate and critique within the studio environment. However, learning is complex, time consuming, and can be taxing on available resources. Assessment within the studio setting can also be problematic (Ehmann, 2005). Studio education does not fit neatly into the university’s model of learning, as “design is focused on subjective creativity, but the positivist university paradigm is focused on objective rationality” (Want, 2010, p. 173). Considering the prominence of the studio in design education, it is surprising so few studies about it have been published (Goldschmidt, Hochman & Dafni, 2010). This paper concludes with future areas for research and the challenges of assessing studio projects. Also presented are the student and faculty opportunities in developing education projects that rely on wicked problems.