Decentering the Lecturer

My experience of university architecture education was that your motivation for success was aligned with pleasing your expert tutor. The desire for praise fueled long days and late nights in the studio. Studio culture promoted a work ethic emphasising producing beautiful artefacts like models and drawings. From my perspective, learning happened through doing, and much of the influences on design came from my library explorations or building visits. This approach to architecture education had one central assumption; that every student learnt through passively absorbing information and then developing a repetitive behaviour of effort and praise.

End of Lectures

Architecture education has long been characterised by traditional lecture-style teaching methods, where students passively receive information from their professors. At UTS College, we take a more student-centred approach to teaching architecture. Rather than the teacher acting as the central knowledge repository, the student-centred approach allows students to explore information and establishes active tasks that promote collaborative discovery. The fundamental shift is the teacher transitions from the central expert to a facilitator of student learning.

What is Student-Centred Teaching?

Student-centred teaching is an approach to education that places the student at the centre of the learning process. This approach acknowledges that students have unique learning needs, preferences, and goals and learn best when they can control what, when and how they learn. While the student-centred approach could be criticised for ideologically concentrating on individualism, autonomy, and choice over collective ritual, it emphasises academic focus on learning as a process, in contrast to the traditional obsession with outcomes. The argument is that products benefit academic profiles while the process prioritises student learning.

The shift to student-centred learning potentially clashes with most university architectural faculties for several reasons.

  1. No more lectures: Student-centred teaching encourages students to be active learners rather than passive recipients of presented information.
  2. Personalisation: Student-centred teaching recognises that every student has unique learning preferences and needs. These needs are met through various modes of information engagement, such as videos, readings, presentations and quizzes, allowing students to learn at their own pace.
  3. Engagement: Student-centred teaching keeps students engaged and motivated by actively involving them in learning. Such an approach requires students to teach each other rather than rely on a teacher.

Some tough decisions.

The shift from a teacher-centred approach to education will be challenging for some academics who traditionally rely on lectures as their primary teaching method. I think there is a place for lectures in architectural education. Still, academics willing to embrace a de-centring from student learning must introduce more interactive and engaging activities into their lectures, using multimedia resources and tools and leveraging digital technologies to enhance the learning experience.

Education is changing, and architectural academics must play a key role in designing and developing new teaching methods and approaches that suit the discipline's unique knowledge and skills while better aligning with the needs and expectations of today's students. While there is a debate about whether education should adapt to diminishing social media-induced attention spans or train students to achieve deeper focus, architecture academics must help shape the future of education and contribute to the ongoing evolution of the field.

Ultimately, the key to academic success in a changing educational landscape is flexibility, adaptability, and a willingness to embrace new ideas and approaches. By staying up-to-date with the latest trends and developments in education and actively seeking opportunities for growth and innovation, academics can thrive as educators and mentors if they are willing to de-centre themselves.