Archinect
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What does it take to teach design?

Over on thread central, Seeker inspired a lively discussion that is now pushing it's third page of comments and worth spinning onto it's own thread by asking:

'[is it possible to] teach at a college level without a Master’s degree?'

Not to recap the entire discussion to date, but it has covered a range of opinions about qualifications to teach architecture/landscape architecture, what sort of creative works/scholarship is required to achieve tenure, and if a PhD prepares folks to teach or not...

Let's keep on the discussion here where we'll be able to find it again versus having it fall into the black hole of TC...

 
Nov 14, 11 12:13 am
MixmasterFestus

Are you talking about teaching design studio specifically, or are you talking about teaching in an architectural school?  Also, are you talking about credentials or 'what makes a good design teacher'?

It seems like there are two basic approaches that are being taken (at least in my limited experience here at this university): practicing or formerly-practicing adjunct faculty with MArchs who teach design, and PhD-level specialists in history/theory, structures, etc. who also conduct research.  I think design-oriented faculty can also teach in a tenure-track position with an MArch if they have a good body of work / worked for a while for a starchitect, but I'm not quite sure what they research.

As far as qualities of a design professor that are good and bad, beyond credentials - the worst professors I've had are the ones who pass judgement without really being able to explain their opinions (although they can often be popular, for some reason!), while the best ones are able to see what you are doing and offer some kind of lateral insight that could give you a fresh perspective.  I haven't found a lot of correlation between 'goodness' and 'possession of a PhD'. 

This is actually something I have been wondering about, so I will also have to ask this question!  How does this work in most technical fields in architecture departments?  Given that acoustics doesn't seem to have a lot of representation at university architecture programs nationwide, I sort of feel called to teach people about this topic (and do research, but this can sometimes be done in practice).  However, given that I would only have two master's degrees (as opposed to a PhD) it seems like I'd mostly be hired on as an adjunct (if the university wanted me) as opposed to a tenure-track position.  I have two fairly specific research-oriented theses that may or may not wind up papers - would this help the process?

For the technical fields, it seems like you need a body of research in order to be considered for the tenure-track position, which you typically get through PhD dissertations, professional practice (if you do it right), and postdoc appointments. How large is this body typically required to be?  Is the size different for technical positions compared to design positions?

Nov 14, 11 2:28 am  · 
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Sarah Hamilton

Archinect, is there a way to bring in all the comments from TC to here?  This thread is missing a lot, and it would be terrible for someone to have to wade through all of TC to find the information.

Nov 14, 11 9:07 am  · 
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trace™

You certainly don't need any knowledge of the real world, or, if you have that knowledge, you  certainly don't need to teach it.  

 It comes down to the individual, not their schooling.  Some teachers suck as designers, some great creative designers suck at teaching.  

One thing is for sure, more schooling does not make anyone a better teacher.  

Nov 14, 11 11:02 am  · 
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citizen

What does it take to teach design... where?

Beyond the very pertinent credentials versus ability discussion already noted, institutional fit is a critical factor.  Many schools seek high-profile designers (architects or not)--locally published ones, if they can't afford a full starchitect.  Flash and (even local) name recognition is important in such cases.  Other schools are more interested in demonstrated teaching experience, and the skill set that comes along with it.  (Of course style and substance sometimes coexist in the same person.) 

Nov 14, 11 11:19 am  · 
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toasteroven

IMO - aside from a good amount of knowledge in a particular subject it takes mostly confidence and an ability to meet students where they are.

 

also - i mentioned on TC that an advanced degree in architecture only teaches you the "what" not HOW to actually teach anything.  You might be able to pick up some techniques from your colleagues, but I without some basic understanding of learning theory, education training, and teaching support, you're going to spend a lot of your career struggling with the fundamentals - or even worse, actually believe that your students will pick things up the same way you did.

Nov 14, 11 11:48 am  · 
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tintt

It would be interesting to study brain scans from students learning in design school, to see what parts of the brain "light up" and when.

Nov 14, 11 12:28 pm  · 
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mmF, some of your questions have already been covered on TC. For the technical specialization, universities tend to hire adjuncts based on professional credentials and expertise. My acoustics prof was a principal at ARUP acoustics. I've worked with energy modeling folks that have only a BArch, but helped create Energy10 (and were a founding board member of the USGBC). Dual Masters are a good start and can get your foot in the door for teaching. Start volunteering for juries or just show up for the final reviews enough times to get noticed.

as stated elsewher, interested in the potential for dual M.Arch (or MLA) & M. Ed program being established to help produce better instructors and to train designers interested in creating schools.

Nov 14, 11 2:27 pm  · 
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What does it take to teach design?

Judging from the last few crops of architectual students, a line of utterly incomprehensible bullshit.

 

Nov 14, 11 5:39 pm  · 
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lol miles

combining education degree with archtiecture degree is intuitively horrible for me.

i just went to a conference where marcos novak was one of the keynote speakers and he is really a pure academic who has a lot to teach and to give.  i didn't feel in his lecture that what he needed was more study about pedagogy..  teaching at university level doesn't work that way...does it?

seems to me that education at uni level is about leading and nothing more than that.  a bit different than elementary school.  this is best way to accommodate leading practitioners as well as leading researchers without worrying about whether they have taken a class in how to control a classroom...

Nov 14, 11 8:40 pm  · 
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I would also say that the word "design" here seems to be pigeonholed into being synonymous with aesthetic or artistic pursuits.

Design is a pretty broad word— is design not an abstraction of intention? Does technical design not exist? Can design be equally perceived as an arrangement of elements such as circulation, egress and the placement of objects equating to floor plans?

I think all of those things up until the threshold of "art" can be easily taught through a variety of demonstration— orally, textually and visually. How hard is it to teach a small subject about equating the fourth dimension into architectural representation? Most of you do this on a daily basis when you add those "motion lines" onto sheets when showing how a door opens or a window slides.

I think a good professor should be knowledgeable on many subjects, give students the basic keywords to further their research and guide them through any problems if they arise. College is about making conclusions on your own and demonstrating how you got there.

Nov 14, 11 10:03 pm  · 
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Design is a process that can be taught. There are many techniques that can be explored in an academic setting, allowing students to develop a personal set of tools that will become the basis for a life-long education. This is the essential difference between teaching design and teaching something like architecture.

Nov 14, 11 10:31 pm  · 
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toasteroven

seems to me that education at uni level is about leading and nothing more than that.  a bit different than elementary school.  this is best way to accommodate leading practitioners as well as leading researchers without worrying about whether they have taken a class in how to control a classroom...

 

have you taught primary and secondary ed?  you'd be surprised at how similar the techniques are and how a class behaves.  the latter is scary - especially when you're supposedly dealing with adults.

 

 
Nov 14, 11 10:44 pm  · 
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toasteroven

you know what - i think you're right, will - it's mostly about leadership - and I think college and graduate students should be treated as adults and even colleagues - but I think this brings up some other issues - what kind of educator you are and how to lead.  leading a studio in a university is very different from leading an office.

 

 
Nov 14, 11 11:05 pm  · 
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design teaching has a lot to do with making connection to students, being upfront and open, as mentioned by will galloway also, leading. constantly carrying the discussion outside and inside, being able to relate to bigger pictures, parts and precedents, being able to define, and yes, sometimes taking risks.

did i mention encouraging the students and listen to them? there is a whole unpredictable side to it as well. like all creative process. a great teacher can feel different paths, identify them and can open it up to students to explore.

 a design teacher is the one who can help students find their own world view and develop ways to use it as designers. not everybody has that ability no matter how many degrees they have.

i wish i could say a b c d e f g but design teaching is not like that. you should be able to maneuver the ship in different weathers. it is a really complex process. 

also there are two styles of design teaching; curriculum based and individual based. there are great teachers in each and there are great teachers who can creatively combine the two. design studio teaching is a very special, creative and reflective process, it is not for everybody.  give it all you can and let students interact with it. don't forget, they have other teachers as well. it requires a lot of on and of site focus.

Nov 14, 11 11:36 pm  · 
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...tumbleweed...

Barry- I think your idea for an educational masters is fantastic.  It seems like everybody who does a post-professional masters is mainly doing it so they can have the option to teach... so it'd obviously be nice to have more focus on that.

Nov 16, 11 12:55 pm  · 
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tintt

I disagree for the most part. I think some coursework/training in teaching is good for those that want to teach, but a dual masters is overkill.

Nov 16, 11 1:32 pm  · 
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MixmasterFestus

I've known people to get a master's degree in pedagogy, but I have no idea if it made them better professors.  Being able to guide a student as he or she draws out and develops their own design process and methods of working is different from having your own design process, and I think people tend to conflate the two.  At the risk of supporting credential inflation, I think that there should at least be some kind of apprenticeship or coursework that aspiring design professors can take.

Also!  How important is the school you went to when applying for academic jobs?  I seem to see a lot of Harvard MArchs, but comparatively fewer PhDs.

Nov 16, 11 2:25 pm  · 
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It's not the school you went to but who you know - the ivory tower is a small community and folks know each other. A good set of references makes a difference. That said, several schools have strong networks of alumni who are embedded in academia either regionally or nationally. So it helps if you went to one of those schools - but it's not essential. These days, specialization/expertise seems to be integral to the job postings, so if you have a hot set of skills, you can expect to get a few phone interviews.

Most institutions have professional development programs and mentoring (not apprenticeships) for new instructors.  From my personal experience, there is a steep learning curve, especially when teaching 176 folks at once.

gotta run off to teach!

 

 

Nov 16, 11 2:58 pm  · 
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tintt

What makes me a good teacher, if I may say so, is just doing it and integrating feedback from both my students and other professionals. I'm sure if I had a M. Ed I wouldn't pay attention to any of the feedback I get!

Nov 16, 11 3:00 pm  · 
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tintt

...but I'm lucky, I got to apprentice into teaching.

Nov 16, 11 3:21 pm  · 
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for me, the instructor feedback forms that students complete at the end of the semester are invaluable... they help to figure out what techniques are working and which aren't... so much so that when i taught a summer course and there weren't any forms (not sure why), i printed my own informal ones and asked my students to fill them out...

Nov 16, 11 5:51 pm  · 
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