Learning Design

What approaches or models can support student learning and experiences? What does this mean for teaching practices in built environment disciplines?

Teaching practice development in the past two decades in the Australasian and Global Higher Education context has shifted from a focus on the teachers' activity to that of the students. A considered approach to learning design offers educators and students the opportunity to understand, engage with, and improve the elements of teaching and learning. Research, including design research, investigates these elements as well as their effective intersection within a 'learning design system'.  (Dalziel,  2008)

Reflection on teaching practises through personal observation and student evaluations allows them to be iteratively designed, refined and evolved over time. A shared language and a clear articulation of the challenges of teaching is needed to explore this work, as well as to understand how the aims and the practices of teaching are changing.

What does BEL+T investigate in this area?

BEL+T investigates learning design in built environments disciplines by developing and testing models in action. This work has included:

  • The iterative design, testing and development of the DIA framework and its DIAgram. This holistic and relational learning design model centralises ambitions for student learning (Learning Engagement, Belonging) in the context of teaching activities (Delivery, Interaction, Assessment), and a Supportive Learning Environment.
  • Application of the DIA model as a useful lens on a number of teaching-related challenges, such as Teaching Practice + Development;  Learning + Education Design;  Evaluation + Teaching Quality.
  • Review of existing and emerging scholarship relevant to teaching practices in the Built Environment disciplines. BEL+T research investigates the translation or testing of these approaches, and/or considers these as context for whole-of-faculty research project across BE disciplines.

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

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

What is next on the horizon?

  • BEL+T is currently investigating changes to the 'Delivery' of subject content through the use of whole-of-cohort events in subject timetables (e.g. what is a 'lecture' now?).
  • BEL+T is collaborating with others to investigate effective pedagogical practices or strategies that foster learner equity, cohort connections, student wellbeing and engagement in Built Environment education.
  • The DIA will be tested as a framework and lens for peer-supported teaching practice development.


  • BEL+T Group Learnings from the Move Online

    This article describes the support provided by BEL+T to facilitate the 'move online' that was prompted by  COVID-19.

    The article outlines how this support related to pedagogical,  technical and cultural challenges in the Faculty of Architecture Building and  Planning. The DIA framework, its DIAgram and related resources developed by BEL+T informed changes to the delivery of relevant content, support for effective interaction with and between students, and online assessment approaches. The article identifies the elements of the framework in terms of architectural learning in the context of a return to campus, hybrid/dual delivery modes and new challenges.

    Tregloan, K. & Thompson, J. (2021). Buckle Up! ... BEL T group learnings from a (very fast) move online. Charrette, 7(1), pp. 59-75.

  • Learner-Focused Coordination Tactics Beyond the Pandemergency

    Post-pandemic education will be impacted by spatial and technological shockwaves, alongside other areas of society. Significant expansion of online learning will build on skills developed by educators and students in this tumultuous time, and in response to emerging challenges and structural transformations. This paper explores an oft-overlooked skill  that underpins contemporary teaching, and posits that “coordination”  will find its way to the centre of this new online world. The paper presents research investigating the translation of tactics for good subject coordination to an online context.

    The authors reviewed academic literature that explored coordination in higher education settings, and recent grey literature identifying expected changes to post-pandemic university learning. The authors developed a survey instrument to investigate the translation of previously identified characteristics of good coordination, and tactics to achieve them, into the pandemic-driven online learning environment. Survey analysis explored the level of difficulty reported by subject coordinators for this translation online,  as well as their suggestions of additional tactics or concerns.

    While the low number of respondents limits these conclusions,  initial analysis suggests that the identified Tactics for Coordination can be applied with relative ease to online learning environments. At the same time, the expected burgeoning of online education identified an expected increase in demand for these skills.

    The authors identified a lack of literature addressing subject coordination as a key skill, or evaluating coordination tactics, as well as a lack of resources for focused skill development. This paper addresses this gap and prompts further and urgent response.

    Soccio, P., Tregloan, K. & Thompson, J. (2020). Well-coordinated: learner-focused coordination tactics beyond the pandemergency. Archnet-IJAR: International Journal of Architectural Research, 15(1), pp. 237-251. doi:10.1108/ARCH-10-2020-0227

  • BEL+T Designs a DIAgram

    The revisioning of ‘old normal’ face-to-face design education in an online environment in a  short timeframe is a very wicked problem indeed. In our Faculty, ‘design’ has influenced the modes, the conceptualisation and the foci of this shift over the past semester, and our preparations for the next.

    This blog post (20 August 2020) was the first outing for the DIA model, and version 1.0 of its DIAgram. It was prepared by members of the Built Environments Learning and Teaching (BEL+T) group at the  University of Melbourne (UoM). This relational framework for moving design learning and teaching online was presented through a sequential presentation of related elements, and implications for resources and practice. The post outlined how this approach had been applied in an Australian university context and potential applications to other contexts. It was considered alongside Distance Design Education's  Creating Distance Design Courses guide available here, authored by Dr Derek Jones of The Open University in the UK which provided a valuable and complementary approach.

    Tregloan, K., Thompson, J., Soccio, P., Song, H. (2020, August 20). BEL+T designs a DIAgram ... a relational framework for teaching online. Distance Design Education.

  • DIAgramming Supportive Learning Environments

    In this paper, we focus on how learning design – that is, the ways academics organise and facilitate student learning experiences – can nurture student wellbeing by contributing to a supportive learning environment. As guidance for instructors, we present a framework for approaching subject-level learning design to enhance architecture student wellbeing across the three primary domains of activity:  delivery, interaction and assessment. Effective integration of a  supportive learning environment demands we attend to factors enmeshed with our discipline's pedagogical structures that destabilise wellbeing. This approach thus elevates care for student wellbeing as an integral, rather than ancillary, dimension of our teaching practice.

    Thompson, J., Song, H. (2019).  DIAgramming Supportive Learning Environments: Architecture student wellbeing and resilienceCharrette, 7(2), 113-133.

  • COVID-19 Catalyst: Emergent Pedagogies

    The global COVID-19 pandemic has delivered extraordinary challenges across geographies as well as practices, and clearly academia has not been spared. While the events of 2020 and 2021 have revealed some limits to teaching in the ‘old (pre-pandemic) normal’, technology-supported pedagogies have been emerging for several years. This pandemic has been a potent catalyst, not only for ad-hoc adaptation, but potentially for long-term change and improvement. The ‘old normal’ is now long passed, and approaches to learning and teaching continue to explore new ground.

    The article introduces a learning design framework – the Delivery, Interaction, Assessment (DIA) framework – which was developed by BEL+T as a tool to communicate with and support staff throughout 2020 and 2021.

    The translation of the elements of the DIA framework and its related ‘DIAgram’ to specific learning activities ‘on the (virtual) ground’ are presented. Some emergent pedagogies for virtual learning environments (VLEs) are outlined, exploring relationships between students, teachers, objects, sites and VLEs for learning, alongside implications for teacher presence and performance online. These key factors have influenced online approaches both before and since the onset of the pandemic. They deliver implications for emergent hybrid approaches such as dual delivery and blended synchronous learning, driven in turn by the needs of a still-distributed student cohort and the challenges of ongoing unpredictability.

    Tregloan, K., Samayoa, N., Chu, A.  &  Jativa, F. (2022). COVID-19 Catalyst: Emergent Pedagogies and a DIAgram Framework. Architecture_MPS, 22 (1).

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