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

Karol, Elizabeth; Mackintosh, Lara
January 2011
International Journal of Learning;2011, Vol. 17 Issue 10, p219
Academic Journal
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.


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