Authors: Bronne C. Dytoc
This paper discusses the employment of collaborative learning and project-based instruction to master the foundational knowledge and skills of solar-responsive design, taught in ARCH 3314, the program’s environmental technology course. The engagement and attitudes of undergraduate Architecture students towards technical classes have generally not been strong, prompting the review of the topic’s instructional design. In response, the instructional model has been modified to better achieve the learning objectives, and improve the learning experience through the use of collaboration and project-based learning as strategies. Students begin their learning with a simulation device known as the heliodon. These first exercises construct the knowledge about sunpath diagrams, which is applied in solar raytracing exercises. The next phase in learning involves the generation of shading masks; graphic analyses determine key solar angles that instruct the generation of these masks with full and half shade performance. This learning output is then overlaid onto a site’s sunpath diagram. Reading these layers of graphically coded information allows the learner to critique the shading device’s overall performance. Collaborative learning is the learning strategy that is employed throughout this experience. Applying knowledge via an architectural project forms the other major learning strategy. Students now design and test a shading device for the Design II Studio building on campus. Their actual experience as occupants of this building contributes to their project’s sense of real-world relevance. Student teams construct and apply their design onto a scaled model that is set on a tilt-and-turn table. Solar exposure is simulated for selected times of spring, equinox, and winter. Photographs systematically document these results, and these generated proofs for this project are arranged in a poster presentation. The knowledge collaboratively constructed by teams show complex task learning, while project-based learning helps in the learning motivation, engagement, and critical thinking, heightening appreciation for performative design. Student responses to informal post-topic surveys point to improved motivation and engagement in learning.
Keywords: Architectural pedagogy, solar geometry, solar responsive design, collaborative learning, project-based learning, motivation in learning