An Exercise in Collaboration: Preparing the Next Generation of Educational Designers
At DLR Group, we believe innovative learning spaces should be designed with an approach that encourages architects and interior designers to collaborate and engage students, teachers, administrators, parents, and education researchers. This approach is especially crucial in preparing college students for a collaborative mindset as they transition from education to practice.
The “Learning Spaces” Studio
This semester’s “Learning Spaces” Studio at the University of Nebraska’s College of Architecture allowed its students to work collaboratively as they focused on two elementary school projects (one rural, one urban), determining best-practices and gaining an understanding of individualized development, social engagement, the theory of multiple intelligences and curriculum delivery. The studio consisted of 4th year Interior Design and Architecture students and was co-facilitated by myself and Nate Bicak, Assistance Professor of Interior Design at UNL. Participants began the semester with deep dive research into educational trends, looking into the different ways young students learn, and how these learning styles impact the educational environment design.
The class allowed students to plan and design K-6th grade facilities to better understand how design impacts learning. Students in the studio focused on two DLR Group elementary school projects: a rural K-6 facility located in Adams County, Neb., and a PreK-6 school located in Omaha. As part of the project, participants were assigned teams and then met with staff from each school to evaluate educational space and programming needs before going on to design facilities to meet those needs.
Learning from Real-World Research and Expert Experience
At the beginning of the semester, Doctoral students in UNL’s College of Education and Human Sciences presented on research to help inform participants of what the University is doing locally and nationally. Those same Doctoral students served as jurors during project critiques throughout the semester. DLR Group experts were also present during several of these project critiques, and provided key insight to students on general architecture and interior design best practices, as well as advice specifically related to educational design.
Even though the students didn’t have to deal with a real budget, it was an invaluable collaborative experience which exposed them to various disciplines and gave them practical experience working with a “real” client. The collaborative nature of the course simulated a design office, adding a rich layer of professional culture to the studio and providing students with the opportunity to develop strong interdisciplinary relationships in which their knowledge and capacity crossed disciplinary boundaries.
I watched as students worked together to determine best-practices to gain an understanding of the challenges we face in educational design. They had the opportunity to see how important it is to build consensus around a project both internally with their team and externally with community stakeholders – something designers at DLR Group do on a daily basis.