|Teaching and Learning Forum 2000 [ Proceedings Contents ]
Using the web to create a community of learners in cooperative education: An example from ArchitectureSusan Savage
Teaching and Learning Development Unit, and
School of Architecture, Interior and Industrial Design
Queensland University of Technology
The foregoing short critique of current circumstances in not peculiar to architecture (Savage, in progress) and, coupled with the following brief analysis of issues centred on workplace learning, forms the basis for a new model of PEP to be described later. The new model recognises that a place separate from the commerce of the workplace and the surreality of university didacticism may improve the learning potential of cooperative education in architecture.
"knowledge is situated, being in part a product of the activity, context, and culture in which it is developed and used ... the activity in which knowledge is developed ... is not separable from or ancillary to learning and cognition" (p32).These observations are reinforced by analysts of the professions in practice. Schon's well-known descriptions of the professional framing and reframing problems in search of a solution (1983) assume a situatedness within the conditions and culture of practice. Professional practice, reliant as it is on the immediate needs of problems as they emerge, has led Beckett (1996, p137) to describe that which professionals do as "contextually specific, socially significant, hot action". Professionals act out their knowledge in courtrooms, at drawing boards and on sites when the heat is on (Beckett 1996, p136). It is this knowledge which students might acquire by immersion in the workplace.
It is little wonder that professions, like architecture, value workplace learning. However the schism that currently exists between the academy and the theatre of action, the workplace, requires attention if the dualisms of the theory-practice, thinking-crafting, formal learning-informal learning divides are to be addressed in student learning. Whilst these dualisms might be "experientially inseparable from the flux of life" (Beckett 1994, p279) the gap between them is responsible for some of the difficulty which students encounter as they move between work and study. When the academy premiates theory, thinking, and formal learning and the workplace reinforces practice, crafting and informal learning the need for a 'space' in which to develop the critical reflection deemed essential to best-practice in higher education (Brockbank and McGill 1998) becomes obvious. Such a space could act as a mediating zone between the entrenched competing interests of workplace and university and provide resources to support learning in the workplace.
|A typical workplace||Virtual space for the||A typical academic setting|
|Depends on shared cognition||
A cyberspace 'home' for a workplace learning programme.
A place with equal access for students, teachers-in-practice and academic teachers; a place for a learning community
Resources to support teaching and learning in the workplace
|Depends on individual cognition|
|The meaning of problems is derived socially||The meaning of problems is free of authentic social construction|
|Learning is incidental||Learning is a desired product|
|The organisation learns as knowledge is used, transformed, reviewed and turned over||The individual learns a body of knowledge at a moment in time|
|Learning is through networks of peers, superiors and consultants outside the profession||Learning is predominantly individual and centred on the teacher's goals for the subject|
|Actions and objects are contextualised in the immediacy of problems||Symbols are manipulated; problems are not real|
Figure 1: A place to support workplace learning located
between a typical workplace and a typical academic setting
Promotion of this idea for a 'space' for workplace learning in architecture assumes a few changes to current methods. Firstly it assumes that curriculum can be adapted to allow students to undertake the type of reflection on work necessary to make sense of working in the profession of architecture. Secondly it assumes that academic staff will view teachers-in-practice as colleagues and will work with them to promote student learning. Thirdly it assumes that architects are willing to recast themselves as teachers-in-practice accepting that their role involves the facilitation of student learning. At its most basic level such a site will foster better communication between workplace and academy so that the rifts outlined earlier can be understood and addressed.
|Manual system||Electronic Logbook|
|Data is collected at six to twelve month intervals highlighting problems long after the possibility of solving them efficiently has passed||Data is collected monthly allowing problems to be identified and managed early|
|Data is collected, collated and calculated manually||Data is collected, collated and calculated through an online database|
|"Anyone" in the employer's office signed off on student experience||One supervisor must be nominated for each student|
|Anyone with a pen could use the system||Only students working in offices with Internet access can use the system|
|Database was managed by Senior Lecturer with administrative support; usually this management assumed 20% of the SL's time||Database is managed by HEWA4 using Microsoft Access (usually this takes 10% of the HEWA's time), HEWA reports to Senior Lecturer|
|Little scope or encouragement for qualitative evaluations; one comment over a twelve month period makes these evaluations over-generalised and of little use||Greater scope for specific qualitative evaluation of students on monthly basis through the use of open fields in the database; cumulative commentary provided in the open fields provides history of student development|
|Students completed AACA logsheets manually and separately to university reports; university and AACA reports were separate but overlapping||Students can download their data in a format suitable for submission to the AACA|
|Targets and performance against targets was largely invisible due to infrequency of reporting||Targets and performance against targets is calculated and reported monthly so that students can readily assess their achievements|
Figure 2: Comparison between manual and electronic
collection of student work experience data
The advantages of such a system seem obvious however unforseen bonuses have emerged during the trial. Most importantly participating workplaces have been forced to nominate an individual responsible for student employees. Because the supervisor must verify their student's reports monthly their invigilation of students has increased. In one participating office an associate has been given an official title and relief from other duties to oversee students and to write the company's policy on mentoring, forwarding it to the university for review and comment. This represents a substantial turnaround in the symbols and culture of workplace learning in architecture. Additionally a number of graduating students have requested their continuation in the system whilst they complete twelve months postgraduate work experience required for registration by the AACA. This means slightly increased workload for the administrators of the system however it allows the School to maintain contact with its alumni and presents opportunities for close and continuing contact with the architectural profession. The start-up cost of the system has been substantial ($10,000) however these ongoing benefits should not be underestimated, changing as they do the culture of cooperative education in architecture and promoting positive values in workplace learning.
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Savage, S. (1994). Learning by working: The role of work in the education of Bachelor of Architecture students. Focus on teaching,Faculty of BEE, Focus on Teaching Week, QUT Brisbane.
Savage, S. (in progress). Helping architects helping architecture:Flexible delivery of resources for architects/teachers-in-practice. QUT Teaching Fellowship Project.
Schon, Donald. (1983). The reflective practitioner. London: Temple Smith.
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|Please cite as: Savage, S. (2000). Using the web to create a community of learners in cooperative education: An example from Architecture. In A. Herrmann and M.M. Kulski (Eds), Flexible Futures in Tertiary Teaching. Proceedings of the 9th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 2-4 February 2000. Perth: Curtin University of Technology. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2000/savage.html|