Nurturing Design Ability of Novice Architecture Designers* Designing, Implementation and Testing a Constructivist Learning Environment

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Instructor, Faculty of Art and Architecture, Bu-Ali Sina University, Hamedan, Iran

2 Assistant Professor, School of Architecture, College of Fine Arts, University of Tehran

3 Professor, School of Architecture, College of Fine Arts, University of Tehran


 This research aims to design, implement and test a pedagogical method for facilitating design ability development of novice students of architecture. The pedagogical method is the resultant of a constructivist instructional design approach and educational implications of a descriptive model of design ability development. The descriptive model fundamentally is based on the Dreyfus model of skill acquisition and adapted from a primary model of acquiring design expertise developed by Lawson and Dorst. Based on descriptive model, novice designers̕ design ability development results, basically, from design schemata development through structured familiarization with design precedents and acquiring episodic design knowledge. Based on constructivist instructional design approach, the educational method provides a constructivist learning environment that supports student-centered, situated and collaborative Learning. In this study, the Jonassen model is used for designing a constructivist learning environment due to its significant similarities in principles and components with learning and teaching processes in the architectural design studio. Finally, the educational approach is a Constructivist Architectural Design Learning Environment (CADLE). The focus of CADLE is authentic design problem-solving tasks that are supported by structured familiarization with related design precedents and architectural information sources. Cognitive and other supportive tools support problem-solving processes and social interactions within this environment. Design tutors support students̕ problem-solving through instructional activities that consist of ‘coaching’, ‘modeling’ and ‘scaffolding’. The CADLE is implemented and tested through a quasi-experimental pretest-posttest control group design. The statistical population of this study includes all junior undergraduate students of architecture in Iran. Instructional method is independent variable, and students' design ability development is dependent variable of our research. The experiment was conducted during the first semester of the 2008-2009 academic year in the Architectural Design Studio (2) in the undergraduate program of architecture in Bu-Ali Sina University. The dependent variable was measured by students’ design performance. Towards that goal, a panel of judges composed of experienced educators of architecture ranked qualities of students' design products based on seven criteria. Data analysis was carried out by means of Mann - Whitney U test to see if a statistically significant difference existed between the two groups. The findings show that design performance of the test group is better than the control group, and the difference is statistically significant. Consequently, constructivist architectural learning environment showed to have a positive effect on novice student`s design ability development. Concerning fixation risk of familiarization with design precedent, findings showed that design problem solving under conditions of CADLE positively affected student`s creativity. The results showed that constructivist instructional design approach is suitable for developing architecture educational methods, which in turn confirms the appropriateness of constructivist learning theories for describing learning mechanisms in architectural education. Finally, results indicated that structured familiarization with design precedents within CADLE could facilitate the acquisition of design episodic knowledge and development of architectural design schemata of novice designers, which in turn has a positive effect on their design ability


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