EXPERIENCES IN TEACHING STRUCTURES COURSES TO ARCHITECTURE STUDENTS
Wentworth Institute of Technology (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Conference name: 9th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 14-16 November, 2016
Location: Seville, Spain
Abstract:I have been teaching Structures courses to architecture students for more than 25 years. During this time, I continuously adjusted my course presentation and topics in order to engage my students. I am also a practicing structural engineer and taught Structures courses to engineering students in the past.
The traditional method of teaching structural curriculum in engineering programs is very linear and functional. One course prepares you for the next course that follows. The reason that it works in engineering programs is that all of the courses are taught this way. This is what engineering students come to expect.
I taught structural courses in engineering programs this way and was trained the same way when I went through my engineering schools. It was the only method I knew.
When I began teaching architecture students it soon became clear that this approach did not work for them. From talking to instructors in other schools, I quickly discovered that it was not just my experience.
One of my early encounters with a different approach was being a part of a studio class for our fifth year students (all of whom had taken my Structures classes a few years earlier). This was their final studio project for which I was their personal Structural consultant. I would come one day a week to their studio and do one on one on board structural review/consultation for their projects, moving from one desk to the next. After couple of weeks, the same students that were bored by structural exercises just few short years ago, now were waiting for me with their questions and different structural options for their design.
Several other similar instances helped me to realize that the traditional way of teaching structures does not engage architecture students because it is so very different from the vast majority of their other coursework. In other classes, especially in studios, architecture students work on the project all semester, not collecting pieces of a puzzle for a final exam.
As a result, I started introducing project related topics into my structures lectures and intend to describe some of these projects and studios in this article. My courses have evolved to include more and more project based assignments as the main vehicle for presenting technical information to my students.
For example, one year I was working on a challenging bridge design and tried to explain the experience of public participation in a project. As a result of the students’ interest, I gave them a site and some constraints and asked them to come up with their solutions. While they were presenting their designs, the rest of the class acted as if they were in attendance in at a public hearing – asking question and expressing their concerns. The class became very engaged in the process and I found even students who typically would do minimal work “just to get a grade,” were not only preparing drawings, diagrams and schematics, but building models of their proposed design for this presentation.
I hope that my teaching journey will be not only beneficial to other instructors of structural courses, but to anyone charged with teaching a subject that is perceived as auxiliary to the major focus of a program.