Dr. Henrik Schoenefeldt receives teaching award for innovative practice in Architectural Education

Dr. Henrik Schoenefeldt was awarded this year’s Faculty of Humanities Annual Teaching Prize. The prize acknowledges three major initiatives that Henrik has taken over the past five years to address a series of important challenges in contemporary architectural education and practice. The focus of his initiatives was on introducing students to (1) new practices of sustainable design, (2) establishing a research culture within the largely design-led education of architecture and (3) improving the pedagogical knowledge and skills of architects through a new module in architectural education.

The panel wrote that the three initiatives ‘taken individually and collectively, are outstanding and this is supported by ample evidence from a range of external academic and professional sources’. It noted that they successfully engaged with the challenge of introducing ‘new practices of sustainable environmental design into architectural education’ and demonstrated the ‘pedagogical potential of involving students in collaborative research.’

The 1st Initiative was the development of new approaches to embedding practices of sustainable design within the teaching of architectural design. This was underpinned by a research project funded through a grant from the Higher Education Academy. The objective of the research project, entitled Inquiries into a new model of teaching environmental design in architecture, was to gain a critical understanding of how environmental sustainability and climate change requires students and architects to adopt new forms of practice. The findings of this research informed the development of a new studio model that introduces students to practices of ‘comprehensive design’ as well as two modules in sustainable design and technology for the MArch programme. In the first module, AR546 Sustainable Technology in the Context of Architecture, students undertake critical case studies, reviewing how modern practitioners integrate research into the design process to develop sustainable technological solutions. To gain such insights students undertake primary research, including interviews with practitioners, clients and building users. In the second module AR647-Design-led Research in Architecture, students are required to develop their own approaches to design-led research within their final architectural project, recording and critically reviewing their design methodologies through diaries and reflective essays.

The objective of this initiative was to establish a research culture within the largely design-centred curriculum of architecture, providing an educational environment where students experience design and research as complementary rather than conflicting cultures of learning.

The second initiative, which focused on exploring the pedagogical potential of involving students in collaborate research, followed a similar objective. It was collaborative research project, which was entitled Interrogating the technical, economic and cultural challenges of delivering the PassivHaus standard in the UK and took place between June 2013 and July 2014. The objectives of the project were to (1) bridge the gap between academic research, industry and university-based teaching, (2) enable students to develop an expertise in sustainable design and to (3) involve students directly in original academic research, including the process of dissemination through conferences and peer-reviewed publications. The project brought together practitioners, academics and final years students from the MA and BA programmes with the aim to investigate how the UK’s building industry can achieve buildings complying with the stringent energy efficiency requirements of the German PassivHaus standard. Acting as an alternative to the traditional dissertation, students joined a research team working on a larger research project. It involving case studies of fifteen real-life projects in England and Wales. Through interviews with the architects, contractors, consultants, suppliers and developers the students were able to engage directly with the different professions involved. This offered intimate insights into the challenges of low energy design not only from the view of the architectural profession, but also from a cross-industry perspective. The project culminated in the production of a peer-reviewed eBook and a conference, which was organised in collaboration with Kent Innovation and Enterprise.

The 3rd initiative was the development of a module in architectural education (AR600 Architectural Pedagogy), which provides students in the final year of the MArch programme with formal training in architectural education, covering theory and teaching practice. The module has been running for the second time this year, following a successful first year in 2014-15. KSA is currently the only school of architecture in the UK that offers a taught module in architectural education, combining a formal program of lectures, tutorials and seminars with research projects and teaching practice. Henrik has written an article about his experience with this module in this year’s End of Year Catalogue; click here to view the article.

The panel emphasised that ‘evidence on external impact was considerably strong’. Henrik had received numerous invitations to speak about his work in architectural education. This included the annual symposium of the Standing Conference of Heads of Schools of Architecture, held at the Royal Institute of British Architects in April 2015, which also got reported in the Architect’s Journal (15 April 2015).

New MArch Module in Architectural Pedagogy introduced

Architectural Pedagogy, a new optional module convened by Dr. Henrik Schoenefeldt, has been introduced into the MArch programme. It is designed to provide stage five students with a formal programme in the teaching of architectural design and communication. Through this module students are to develop an understanding of the general principles of architectural pedagogy, first through practical experience with studio teaching in the first year undergraduate programme and second through research in the field of higher education.

The focus of the module is on teaching and learning models that are specific to architecture. It is taught through a combination of lectures, tutorials, group seminars and review sessions. Teaching and assessment of this module is divided into two components:

Component I: Theory
For the theory component students are tasked with producing an academic essay based on a topic in the field of architectural education. In these essays students explore a particular area of architectural education in greater depth. Through weekly lectures and a series of group tutorials students are introduced to (a) educational theories and models of architectural education (b) research methodologies in education and (c) practical pedagogical methods used in studio teaching.

Component II: Teaching Practice
For the practical component students take on the role of Teaching Assistants in the first year undergraduate programme under the supervision of a dedicated studio tutors and the module convenor. This year there are four studio tutors: David Moore, Rebecca Hobbs, Chris Gardener, Henry Sparks. The MArch students work closely with the studio tutors, but will be given enough independence to develop their own individual approaches to teaching and to provide the space for exploring various alternative methods. Following Donald Schön’s principles of reflective practice students are asked to demonstrate the ability to develop, deliver and critically review your own teaching sessions. The practical components is assessed on the basis of a weekly teaching diary through teaching observations and a reflective report on their overall teaching experience at the end of Spring Term.

Stage five students on field trip to Folkestone with the first year students and their main tutors

Shelter Project supervised by the first year tutorial team and the MArch students on the Pedagogy Module.

As such the module provides future architecture with the teaching skills and pedagogical understanding required to remain active in the education of architects whilst practicing.