An investigation into application of the “Process Book” as an educational tool in architectural design studio

Document Type : Research Paper


An investigation into application of the “Process Book” as an educational tool in architectural design studio
Within the domain of education, the design process is presumed by educators, as important, if not more, than the final design product. The reason lies in the fact that the very aim of design education is the enrichment of the students’ thinking processes, in their progress from given design problems to solution proposals. And more, to enable them to identify the compatible problem solving strategies for various problem types. An insightful means to that end is supposed to be the encouragement of students to orderly document their thinking processes, in what could be called a “Process Book”.
The process book documents the progression of a project from design brief to design solution. It includes all the stages of the process from primary investigations through to design drawings and sketches, written notes, diagrams, images of 3D study models, and the final design alternatives.
The present article introduces a research conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of the process book, as well as the ways it could be enhanced, in architectural design education.
The theoretical framework has been configured upon the assumption that application of the process book, in line with the objectives of the design studio, will facilitate the students’ design thinking processes. The effectiveness of the tool is theoretically endorsed by two theories of “cognitive load” and “schema” in educational psychology.
The research reflects, and heavily draws upon a nine-year application of the process book in architectural design studio1 of BArch. program, at Ferdowsi University. Three groups of architecture students, who were experiencing and/or had experienced the application of the tool, participated in separate surveys. The students’ perspectives of the process book were collected in two stages, using open and closed questionnaires. The questionnaires were outlined on the basis of two research questions:
1. What are the efficiencies and deficiencies of the process book?
2. How can the effectiveness of the tool be enhanced?
The results of the data analysis, on the whole, supports the before mentioned assumption. To be more precise, the application of the process book, from the viewpoints of educational requirements, helpfulness and effectiveness, attained positive feedbacks from the participants. So, given the results driven from the data, it could be maintained that the process book, as a useful educational tool, is worth being recommended. It is well capable of decreasing the unnecessary cognitive load of students to the benefit of creating mental schemata from the subtleties of the design process.
In order to enhance the effectiveness of the process book, two following deficiencies need to be resolved:
1. Limitation of easily encompassing some types of representations (3D models, digital files, and the like)
2. Impeding arbitrary and fertile shifts of attention between various representations of design activity, despite the chronological structure of the process book.
To solve the above deficiencies, further research undertakings should focus on devising and testing the necessary modifications in the design and structure of the process book.


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