handcrafts - personal experience Learning by doing in architectural design education

Document Type : Research Paper


1 PHD in Architecture, Professor assistant, Faculty of fine art, Tehran university, Tehran

2 PHD in Architecture, Professor assistant, Faculty of architecture and urban design, Shahid Beheshti university, Tehran


One of the important concerns among the educators of architecture is the enhancement of education. Towards that goal, this paper relies on literature review, and methods of deductive reasoning and field study. In the field of educational psychology, teacher- centered learning has been complemented by student- centered learning method in which exploratory learning and learning through group discussion are regarded as two instrumental means for enhancement of learning. One of the techniques common to these learning means is the introduction of the problem by the learner, and then involvement in solving the problem at hand by means of mental (and/or manual) activity, and also dialogue with peers and the tutor through to the solution. This method is also true for (design and) construction processes in real world practice of architecture.
The present paper draws heavily on a close study of an educational experience within the framework of a course entitled "introduction to construction procedures”. 
To benefit from exploratory hearing and group discussion methods, exercise were devised for students of architecture. In accordance with the above mentioned educational approach, each student should follow the following course of action; they should devise their own design problem personally, identify the design constraints, and they should sort out proper solution to overcome those constraints, thrash mental and manual involvement with the problem solving process. In order to help students to find their way through the course of action, a sample design problem which had been solved and further crafted by an experienced tutor, or an expert designer, is introduced and analyzed in an early session of the course. In order for the students to have a close idea at the subtleties of the designing or making process, they were assigned to refer to their past memories and introduce an object that they had made, repaired, or dismantled/overhauled. They were required to explain the whole processing from the emergence of their problem through to their final solution, to their fellow students and the tutor. This assignment or exercise is called "handcrafts - personal experience".
 Every student's presentation, verbal and visual, is subjected to group discussion to throw light to the subtleties of making and designing procedures and to articulate the effects of design decisions on construction strategies as well as those of construction subtle difficulties on design propositions. 
This paper investigates the exercise in the light of the aforesaid theories, the tutor's observations, and students' survey. Results show that this exercise is in line with student-centered learning views and combines exploratory learning with learning through group discussion. Practicality, personal and exploratory nature of the exercise, the guiding role of the tutor, and cooperation of fellow students are correspondingly in   agreement with Dewey, Piaget, and Vygotsky's theories of learning. Moreover, manual and experiential nature of the task is congruent with Kolb's thoughts on learning.
Having drawn a theoretical perspective of the educational experience, the paper concludes with an emphasis on the necessity of such exercises which require students to strive for solving a design problem through engagement in crafting the solution