1 University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNITED STATES)
2 Temple University (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2013 Proceedings
Publication year: 2013
Pages: 2653-2662
ISBN: 978-84-616-3847-5
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 6th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 18-20 November, 2013
Location: Seville, Spain
This conference paper addresses pedagogic research of a specific and unique group of students most academics do not typically encounter: those who are in professional programs studying architecture.

For the uninitiated, it can simply be noted that an architectural education—under the umbrella of one program—crosses arguably the greatest breadth of disciplines of any in the Academy, ranging from history, to theory, to technology, to design. Because an architecture student must become conversant in such a wide array of subject matter, achieving meaningful depth in any one of these subjects is a constant struggle for every generation of students. The design studio—a hands-on learning experience where students are tasked with the design of buildings of various types—is by far the largest component in most architectural programs, taking nearly half the credit hour load per semester, and sets up inherently open-ended building design problems with no set solutions. Students are thus challenged to balance their learning experience in other more traditionally organized lecture classes in this environment, as well as striving to integrate that learning into the design studio.

The subject of the principles of structural engineering (i.e., “structures”) is one of these components in architectural education. Historically, it is a field that many students find difficult, both due to the highly technical nature of the material, and often by the misperception that it is ultimately not going to be the responsibility of a practicing architect, but rather of a consultant. Some students thus enter these classes with an attitude of “Why should I care?” Yet an understanding of structures is fundamental to the success of an architect who leads a team that engineers, and so the continued development of effective pedagogic approaches is critical if it is to be more than simply “watered-down engineering for architects.”

Although an important content area, there currently exists no systematized assessment methodology that is directly applicable to evaluating the effectiveness of various pedagogic strategies for teaching structures to architects. Extensive research has been done in related fields, however (such as physics and engineering), which can be adapted. Nevertheless, the unique setting of teaching structures to architecture students makes for a compelling case that differs from these disciplines that calls for its own research. The impact of the design studio is one factor, for example, that must be considered.

Over the past two years, a research program focused on this issue has been undertaken by the author of this paper to address these shortcomings in the existing literature. An assessment strategy based on techniques used in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in the sciences was developed. Learning outcomes were evaluated based on student experiences through application of techniques from disciplines in related fields. It has significantly also included a component of face-to-face interviews with previous structures class students, which were transcribed. The transcriptions are currently being evaluated for recurrent themes that can form the basis for course modifications. All student studies were conduced with approval from the university Institutional Review Board.

This paper will present current findings and future directions for this research, and discuss potential implications in terms of impact on structures education in general.
Pedagogy, Architecture, Structures, Structural Engineering, Student Learning Outcomes.