Stephen Temple

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.26687/archnet-ijar.v4i2/3.101


This paper asks what beginning design learning experiences best support the remainder of design education. It is a conjecture of brain-based learning theory that a student’s direct, concrete primary experiences are responsible for the construction of fundamental structures of neural processing as “hard wired” pathways. These structures then form the ground of and set into play patterns of later more abstracted learning experiences. Pedagogy of basic design courses that seeks introduction of creative processes as a foundation for design education must recognize these experiential, biologically developmental relationships as basic to developmentally appropriate beginning design curriculum.

This paper models a beginning design pedagogy on developmental relationships between concrete and abstract processes of learning as a basis for transformative creative thinking that enables student self-development that progresses up the curriculum. Aligning with developmental learning theories (Piaget and others), a basic tenant of this approach is that learning at the primary level of direct experience self initiates brain changes where students form their own structure of learning. Thus, initial learning experiences will be those that best enable decision-making consistent with the biological interactivity between body and mind, between, respectively, the concrete and the abstract. This is important because the designed environment in which we all live is grounded in the development of abstract content experientially based in concrete material physicality. Experiential learning theories (Kolb and others, following Piaget) identify concrete and abstract learning as fundamental poles for acquiring and acting on knowledge: Concrete learning involves direct experiential engagement through heuristic discovery and reflection and abstract learning involves indirect representational cues in acts of conceptualization, synthesis, and experimentation. The pedagogical model of this paper proposes a cycling of concrete material experiences and abstract learning experiences into an interactive transformational interdependence as a model of creative design processes that engages student self-development toward maturation. In addition to explication of this theoretical background, an introductory design course sequence following this model will be demonstrated.


Beginning architectural education; design pedagogy; making; experiential learning; student development

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