Application of Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory to Teaching Architectural Design Principles

By Badrinarayanan Srinivasan.

Published by The Design Collection

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

Design studios of architectural schools in India conventionally use the ‘design project’ as the primary vehicle of learning. The theoretical basis of this is ‘Problem-Based-Learning’ (PBL), which assumes that if the ‘problem’ is solved, design principles are ‘learnt’ automatically, but this is not true as a lot of the design knowledge remains ‘tacit’.

Usually, the ‘Design-project’ is announced in the beginning of the semester, with a project-brief and a site plan. A linear progression of ‘stage-submissions’ is also announced—such as site analysis, program analysis, case studies, site zoning, concept, sketch design, etc, leading up to the final presentation. Each stage is graded separately.

Several problems have been observed with this linear sequence of design as a ‘learning tool’. The students are unable to carry forward and integrate learnings from one stage to the next. They find it difficult to revisit some earlier design decisions which might qualitatively improve the design. Since the feedback on each stage is usually only through marks, they often confuse ‘principle’ with ‘product’. The system privileges a few ‘genius’ rather than ‘overall competence’ across the class.

In response to this, several experimental studios were conducted on a cyclical format of learning based on Kolb’s Theory. The design problem was broken down into a series of smaller problems which grew from simple-wholes to complex-wholes. Specific tasks were devised to focus on specific design issues and to engage learners sequentially in all learning modes.

The results, when compared to conventional pedagogic sequence show that there is a significant increase in the overall student motivation, of understanding and integration of design principles, transfer and continuity of learning from one exercise to the other, and overall competence levels across the class.

Keywords: Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory, Design Studio Pedagogy, Architectural Design Principles

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp.581-594. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.199MB).

Dr. Badrinarayanan Srinivasan

Associate Professor, Department of Interior Architecture & Design, Pearl Academy of Fashion, New Delhi, New Delhi, India

Badrinarayanan Srinivasan (born 1961) graduated from School of Planning and Architecture (SPA)Delhi in 1982. He started his own Design consultancy firm in 1994, designing architecture,interiors, furniture, graphics, exhibitions, sets for stage and TV, lighting, products, etc. Badrinarayanan has also been teaching architectural design for the last two decades which led to his PhD thesis titled, “Architectural Education in India: Reforming the Design Studio”. He has been writing about design education and has many publications to his credit. Interests include design pedagogy, traditional craft and vernacular architecture, Indian classical music, and Buddhist philosophy. He is currently professor at the Department of Interior Architecture and Design, Pearl Academy of Fashion,New Delhi.


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