Analysing the Lack of Student Engagement in the Sustainability Agenda: A Case Study in Teaching Architecture

By Elizabeth Karol and Lara Mackintosh.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

As a result of the 1992 Rio conference, the School of Architecture at Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia committed to engender environmental responsibility in students and integrate responsible sustainability principles in the course. This commitment translated into a unit of study, Ecologically Sustainable Design (ESD) in the first year of the architecture program. The teaching of the unit has tried to evolve from a transmissive form of teaching and learning to a more transformative approach. The evolution has been driven by research and reflection by teaching staff and student feedback. Three essential ingredients to successfully engender environmental responsibility in architecture students have been identified. Firstly students’ philosophical and personal positions on the principles and application of sustainability need to be developed if sustainable design is to become an integral part of their design practice. Secondly from the students’ point of view, the unit needs to be perceived as directly relevant to the teaching of architectural design as implied by its nomenclature. Thirdly, in order to grapple with the complexity of sustainable thinking, students need to be aware of their own learning and transformation. This paper, whilst tracing the evolution of teaching of ESD at Curtin University, examines how hierarchies in ways of thinking can inform the teaching approach. The paper proceeds to evaluate recent initiatives to move towards a more transformative teaching and learning approach and proposes an educational matrix that will provide a tool to further improve the teaching and learning in the unit.

Keywords: Architectural Education, Sustainability, Ecologically Sustainable Design

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 17, Issue 10, pp.219-236. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 921.171KB).

Dr. Elizabeth Karol

Senior Lecturer, Department of Architecture and Interior Architecture, School of Built Environment, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Dr. Elizabeth Karol has held a variety of roles in the construction industry, including architect, engineer and building surveyor. She is now an academic in Perth at Curtin University School of Built Environment. She has published in areas associated with the teaching of science and design of environmentally sensitive buildings as well as the development of liveability issues for older people.

Lara Mackintosh

Lecturer, Department of Architecture and Interior Architecture, School of Built Environment, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Lara Mackintosh has over 15 years experience in the profession working in the residential, retail and educational sectors. As an academic in Perth at Curtin University School of Built Environment, Lara has developed a keen interest in teaching sustainability in architecture. Her current research activities are associated with developing a holistic approach to architecture, in which the social, economic and environmental issues of sustainability in the built environment can be addressed both through practice and the education of architects.

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