Establishing best-practice principles for the teaching of group design projects
Tucker, Richard 2004, Establishing best-practice principles for the teaching of group design projects, in Contexts of architecture : proceedings of the 38th Annual Conference of the Architectural Science Association ANZAScA and the International Building Performance Simulation Association - Australasia, University of Tasmania, Launceston, Tas., pp. 286-293.
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As student-to-staff ratios escalate, increasing numbers of undergraduate architects are finding the reduction of ‘one-to-one’ studio supervision an impediment to learning. Group design projects are becoming a widespread solution to this problem. However, little analysis has been undertaken as to their effectiveness both in terms of student assessment and as a design teaching methodology. The two hundred years of apprentice/master tradition that underpins the atelier studio system is still at the core of much present day architectural design education. Yet this tradition today poses uncertainties for a large number of co-ordinating lecturers faced with current changes in the nature of tertiary education and its funding structure. In particular, with reductions in staff/student contact time, in sessional funding sources and in the relative weighting of design-based subjects with respect to other subject areas, many design teachers are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain an atelier system that has shaped both their learning and, more pointedly, their teaching. If these deficiencies remain unchecked and design-based schools are unable to implement strategies that successfully overcome the resource intensive one-to-one teaching program, then architecture may prove to be an untenable course structure for many institutions. Rather then spreading their time thinly, many co-ordinating lecturers are setting group projects in order to review less assignments but at greater depth. However, while this learning model better reflects design teams in practice, this approach may pose other pedagogical and assessment questions. What is clear is the urgent need for structured research into the teaching and assessment problems experienced by design teachers, and for a readily adoptable pedagogy for group design projects. At Deakin University, research is underway aimed at establishing best-practice principles for group design projects by analysing students’ performance and recording and implementing their feedback to adjustments made to the pedagogical fundamentals of assessment, group configuration, and program structure. There are after two years of preliminary studies already clear indications of what changes can be made to these to encourage more effective team learning. This paper will present the findings of these studies.
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