Portfolio > Words

One of many one page teaching philosophies I've written the past year.

The body | mind dichotomy. This delineation starts to describe two ends of a spectrum that I believe the studio instructor should balance. On one end, teaching the necessary skills of an architect/designer. At the other end, encouraging the creative process, personal expression, and conceptual thinking. These two values are equally valid -- On the grounded body end, it is about sustenance: gaining the skills to progress through the program, graduate, eventually maintain a job, hence earn a living, and afford food and a roof over ones head—in other words--survival. On the other more lofted end, it's about improving our shared environment; creating beauty, meaning, and poetry were there was none, something akin to a mental sustenance. I would describe this spectrum as the playing field that you the instructor are trying to engage students with all aspects of.

Communication. At the beginning of a class/studio, I check in with the group as a whole, and individually, as to what their motivations for being here are, how they define architecture, what are their goals, fears. Having this discussion early on allows me to listen to their point of view and gauge where they are. Some of these student responses may change and evolve over the course of the term. But tuning in to the group and the individual helps me tailor my teaching to better fit their needs. I also believe that this personal connection and interaction helps makes the students feel recognized, and hopefully more comfortable. Along with this comes the enforcing of the necessary rigor that comes with studying/practicing architecture. This entails providing clarity of expectations, at the start and throughout the term. If a student is missing the target, or coming up short, I need to let them know in a timely fashion. They need fair warning. This gives them a chance to correct their course. Another item in regards to communication--I believe, as an educator, there is always room for improvement, always room for personal growth. This means soliciting feedback from students, as well as the department, and setting side time at the end of the class day for reflecting on the day's successes and failures. Keeping the lines of communication open for this external, as well as internal, dialogue is crucial to improvement.

The art of process. In the beginning studio, it is the first time some students are starting to engage with an architectural design process. It is this "process" that becomes a students personal tool kit for solving problems throughout the rest of their time in school, as well as in the working world. Brainstorm, postulate, sketch, model, commit, test, and garner feedback. Rinse and repeat. Iteration--a common word in regards to the design process---is one of the essential parts of what we as architecture students and architects do. The sooner you are able to make a complete iteration, the sooner you can refine and come up with--hypothetically, a better solution. Another important process item: show, don't tell. We want to see what the student is talking about, not just hear. Visual communication is of great importance and this may be one of the hardest skills to grapple with at the start of a studio. It has been my experience that few students come with ready-made drawing skills, so the simple act of getting the idea from the head into a model or onto paper can be hard. As an instructor, one of my goals is to facilitate and encourage the students to value and attain these skills.

Life is a palette--use it. This phrase starts to describe the embodied knowledge we all carry within us. The life we have lived up until this point has made us each who we are, it affects how we make decisions, our values, how we see the world. It is personal and authentic. I think this is important to point out to incoming architecture students, particularly when they're embarking upon a new course of study. Looking ahead can be overwhelming thought--so much to learn, take on, and figure out. It can be reassuring if you are encouraged to recognize you already have something to contribute. Another part of the idea that "life is a palette": it values the individual viewpoint. We all bring something unique to the table. The more the stories that can be brought to bear, the more enriching the educational experience is--and the closer the picture within the classroom begins to reflect the reality outside the classroom. Another important --not to be overlooked--aspect of this belief: critical thinking--not just accepting our experiences at face value, but actually putting them in context, reflecting upon them and thereby extracting greater meaning from them. Taking something of personal significance and making it applicable to an audience outside one's self. This feeds into the idea that forming a defendable opinion is an important skill to have in the field.

Finding Joy. As an educator and potential role model of sorts, I think it is important to share my experiences amidst the realities of the profession, as well as share what it is I love about it, and in the process, help the students find and articulate what they love about it. Architecture can be challenging in so many ways-- it should not be sugar coated. No matter, I see the architectural educational process as pretty awesome--it can prepare someone who takes it on for a myriad of possibilities--and who doesn't like possibilities....

Teaching Philosophy A
2011