Design Teaching Practices

What can emerging practises tell us about the changing nature of design education? What is needed next?

Design-based education remains an underexamined and undertheorised area of research, in that teaching design is often viewed as a mysterious enterprise by staff and students alike. At the same time, many of the widely accepted models of studio-based practises are now outdated, problematic or simply inaccurate. Better understanding what is happening in design education, and the effectiveness of design teaching strategies, requires a nuanced appreciation of the social relationships and cultural practises of the contemporary studio. This can encompass learning experiences outside the physical studio, including online platforms and site visits, as well as 'teaching' that occurs between individuals other than the designated teacher, such as with guest critics and peers.

What does BEL+T investigate in this area? 

  • BEL+T collects perspectives from across a broad range of design teaching approaches, to understand how design operates within each built environment discipline and to identify emergent trends.
  • BEL+T collaborates with those teaching design to articulate specific and innovative design teaching models, applying our DIAgram approach to understand the full picture.

How are these contributing to high-quality and relevant learning experiences?

BEL+T has developed the following outputs from this area of research:

What is next on the horizon?

  • BEL+T is currently researching how teachers are approaching the 'lecture' activity in the learning design for a subject, including for studio-based subjects, drawing on student and staff experiences. From this, we will develop evidence-based advice for policy and practice.
  • BEL+T collaborates with studio coordinators to publish reflective and evidence-based scholarship and for reviews of innovative approaches to learning and teaching in BE disciplines.


  • Phases of Learning in Design Studio Models

    An understanding of the theoretical basis of the design learning process, and the resulting partnership between students and teachers in contemporary design studios, is required to optimise learning. Students’ learning in the architecture design studio has been widely studied, however the specific activities of students and teachers, and the interpersonal interactions between them, have not been investigated in great depth. This research identifies a complex, nuanced situation, one with three consecutive phases of different learning activities and relationships. An undergraduate architecture program at a large Australian university is analysed using a modified Delphi method to investigate the perceptions of staff and students and achieve convergence upon a shared understanding of how the design learning process unfolds through three distinct phases to support learning.

    Iftikhar, N., Crowther, P., & Burton, L. O. (2023). Identifying the phases of learning in an Australasian undergraduate architecture design studio model. Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, 0(0).

  • Dual Delivery Design Studios

    In the wake of 2020’s move to remote learning and teaching, institutions of higher education began experimenting with approaches that combine face-to-face and online learning. This article reviews one learning and teaching group’s development of guidance for “dual delivery,” and reports on focus group conversations with staff coordinating dual delivery design studios. It highlights key considerations identified by the group—learner equity and access, cohort building, and staff and student perceptions—and reports on efforts to address these through the design and coordination of studio subjects. This marks the first known study exploring hybrid/dual delivery in the design studio context. Findings suggest that treating the hybrid split-cohort mode of 2021 as an amalgamation of online and blended learning approaches is to ignore its unique learning design challenges, and to underestimate the implications of dual delivery for studio teaching. In addition to specific strategies for the design of studio learning activities, teachers’ “on-the-ground” reflections offer additional insights for studio coordination—on distributed, place-based learning; on peer-to-peer interaction around student work; and on approaching learning design on the premise of “contingency.” The article encourages testing of new pedagogic forms that can combine learning modes across space, and engagement with activities over time, in support of rich design learning for emerging hybrid cohorts.

    Thompson, J., Tregloan, K., Soccio, P., & Song, H. (2021). Dual Delivery Design Studios. Design And Technology Education:  An International Journal, 26(4), 221-238.

  • Qualified Satisfaction

    Across disciplines, skills associated with collaboration are now ubiquitously considered requisite graduate attributes. Despite decades of studies on the various dimensions of academic teamwork, challenges for both students and staff remain. For this year-long study at a UK school of architecture, we considered teamwork as a thread woven through the first-year curriculum, traversing course modules and project types. The primary aim of the study was to evaluate the collective impact of teamwork activities on the incoming cohort of 200+ undergraduate students and how the structuring and coordination of such activities might improve the holistic student experience.

    Across two rounds of online questionnaires and focus group sessions, student participants articulated the benefits of collaboration for learning, socialisation and professional development. However, resentment towards teamwork increased throughout the year, as frustration with disengaged cohort mates grew, and student sought greater structure and oversight from tutors. On the other hand, when given the chance to reflect on the multidimensional nature of teamwork in focus group discussions, many students adopted a productively nuanced perspective toward the topic. This implies that, whether students like or dislike certain aspect of collaborative projects, opportunities for critical conversation can promote or prompt an appreciation for the educational value of including teamwork projects in curricula. The results of this study should be relevant to educators seeking to improve the implementation and effectiveness of team-based learning, particularly those in design-based fields and those in higher and professional education contexts.

    Thompson, J., Braglia, R., & Teba, T. (2021) Qualified Satisfaction: First-year architecture student perceptions of teamwork. International Journal of Art and Design Education.

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