Experiential Learning Applied to Architectural Studio Teaching: The Influence of Design Styles on the Design Process

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Architectural teaching implies a two-fold approach in the studio: the un-measurable conceptual, emotional, non-scientific (artistic) as a more measurable practical realization of structures and spaces (technical). The perception will however differ from person to person, complicating the teaching of design and questioning the potential subjectivity thereof. Design teaching (thus the design process) should attempt to explore the different ways or modes of perceiving information. This paper will therefore attempt to demonstrate a more measurable (scientific?) approach of teaching design.

An existing model designed by Chicago based David A. Kolb’s (the experiential learning cycle model), implies that we all belong to a dominant learning style dictated by four modes of elementary learning strategies: abstract conceptualization (thinking) versus concrete experience (feeling) and active experimentation (doing) versus reflective observation (watching). These polar opposites are paired together to form dominant learning styles: divergent (feeling/watching); assimilating (watching/thinking); converging (thinking/doing) and accommodating (doing/feeling). During the design process, our dominant learning style will dictate the movement through these stages of the experiential learning cycle, where an integrated or balanced learning style (combination of all four) can be considered the highest level of learning.

Since the general, well-known studio system of teaching design does not provide for the variety of learning styles (students and educators) in the process of design and the evaluation of projects, this proposed methodology can be summed up as follows:
• Identification of the learning style of student / educator by Kolb’s Learning Style Inventory (LSI);
• Identification of design characteristics of specific learning styles (linking learning style with design approach/ design style);
• Evaluating and analyzing the design process /product according to learning styles;
• The first developments of creating a directive guide for the methodology of teaching an experiential architectural design process.


Keywords: Experiential Learning, Design Styles, Design Process, Architectural Studio Teaching
Stream: Curriculum and Pedagogy; Student Learning, Learner Experiences, Learner Diversity
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Assoc. Prof. Jan Smit

Head of Department, Department of Architecture, University of the Free State
Bloemfontein, Free State, South Africa

Teaching full time with part time practice. Critical regionalist approach- influenced by Glenn Murcutt and Lake and Flato. Won one national awards as well as two regional ones (waiting for results on national level). Design teaching includes first year studio and history of architecture. As head of department, I am interested in design pedagogy and the approach of the school.

Ref: L08P0335