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Starting with the first founded university, higher education has been evolving continuously, yet the pace of this evolution is not as fast as the changes that we observe in practice. Today, this discrepancy is not only limited to the content of the curricula but also the expected skills and competencies. It is evident that 21st-century skills and competencies should be much different than the ones delivered in the 20th-century due to rapidly developing and spreading new design and information technologies. Each and every discipline has been in continuous search of thè`right'' way of formalization of education both content and skill wise. This paper focuses on architectural design education incorporating discussions on the role of STEAM (Science Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics). The study presents the outcomes of the ArchiSTEAM project, which is funded by EU Erasmus+ Programme, with the aim of re-positioning STEAM in architectural design education by contemplating 21st-century skills (a.k.a. survival skills) of architects. Three educational modules together with the andragogic approaches, learning objectives, contents, learning/teaching activities and assessment methods determined with respect to the skill sets defined for 21st-century architects.
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STEAM Approach for Architecture Education
Arzu Gönenç Sorguç1, Çağlar Fırat Özgenel2,
Müge Kruşa Yemişcioğlu3, Fatih Küçüksubaşı4,
Soner Yıldırım5, Ernesto Antonini6, Luigi Bartolomei7,
Nis Ovesen8, Nicolai Steinø9
1,2,3,4,5Middle East Technical University 6,7University of Bologna 8,9Aalborg Uni-
versity
1,2,3,5{arzug|fozgenel|mugek|soner}@metu.edu.tr
4fatihksubasi@gmail.com 6ernesto.antonini@unibo.it 7luigi.bartolomei@unibo.it
8nove@create.
aau.dk 9steino@create.aau.dk
Starting with the first founded university, higher education has been evolving
continuously, yet the pace of this evolution is not as fast as the changes that we
observe in practice. Today, this discrepancy is not only limited to the content of
the curricula but also the expected skills and competencies. It is evident that
21st-century skills and competencies should be much different than the ones
delivered in the 20th-century due to rapidly developing and spreading new design
and information technologies. Each and every discipline has been in continuous
search of the ``right'' way of formalization of education both content and skill
wise. This paper focuses on architectural design education incorporating
discussions on the role of STEAM (Science Technology, Engineering, Art and
Mathematics). The study presents the outcomes of the ArchiSTEAM project,
which is funded by EU Erasmus+ Programme, with the aim of re-positioning
STEAM in architectural design education by contemplating 21st-century skills
(a.k.a. survival skills) of architects. Three educational modules together with the
andragogic approaches, learning objectives, contents, learning/teaching
activities and assessment methods determined with respect to the skill sets defined
for 21st-century architects.
Keywords: STEAM, Architectural Education, Survival Skills
INTRODUCTION
In our day, requirements for the individuals are
rapidly changing and evolving due to the liberation
of information . Exponential increase of accessible
data which triggers competences and knowledge to
expire and become obsolete faster than ever be-
fore. In this sense, sustainable learning becomes a
very crucial issue to cope with the demands of the
21st-century, Industry 4.0 and beyond. Today, one
of the most important goals is to transform existing
Challenges - EDUCATION AND RESEARCH - Volume 1 - eCAADe 37 / SIGraDi 23 |137
economies to green economies. One of the promi-
nent features of green economy is high dependency
on the level of education. Hence, how education
should be re-structured and enable learners to have
new mindsets and furnish them with green and dig-
ital skills is a crucial issue for individuals to be a part
of sustainable economy. These skills differ from tra-
ditional schools’ outcomes in terms of not only being
content-based knowledge. Correspondingly, critical
thinking, creativity, communication, and collabora-
tion have been proposed as the ”Four C’s of 21st-
century learning” by the United States Based Partner-
ship for 21st-century skills which is a non-profit orga-
nization founded in 2002 [7].
Educational research studies are looking for ways
to enhance students’ learning and equip students
with skills that are helpful to meet the 21st-century’s
demands (Retna, 2015). Easy access of information
and high availability of technology makes our lives
easier; yet, the definition of being a successful stu-
dent and significant factors that are necessary for be-
ing successful both in academic and professional life
has also changed. Architectural education is not an
exception in this sense.
Architects of the past, or today or the ones in
future should be able to incorporate and conduct a
large amount of knowledge and data as well as to be
able to cope with changes related with technology,
culture, sociology, economy and more. They are ex-
pected to be creative and innovative in order to com-
pete and to survive in the world of change. STEAM
(Science, Technology, Engineering, liberal Arts and
Mathematics) which is a holistic educational perspec-
tive of all these fields is a very promising structure in
architectural education. The idea of STEAM actually
exists almost in every curriculum of schools of archi-
tecture implicitly at varying levels of integrity. Yet,
revisiting the contemporary curricula of architecture
schools from the principles of STEAM approach pro-
vides an opportunity to revise the skill sets and learn-
ing outcomes of the education with respect to the
everlasting demands of the time in a more flexible
structure.
In this regard, ArchiSTEAM Project, which is
an EU-funded Erasmus+ Project, is conducted with
the collaboration of Middle East Technical University
(METU), University of Bologna (UNIBO) and Aalborg
University (AAU) to analyze the architectural educa-
tion and the relevance of STEAM approach, and to
develop teaching/learning modules to enable the in-
tegration of STEAM mindset to the existing curricula
of architecture schools.
STEAM APPROACH IN ARCHITECTURE ED-
UCATION: ARCHISTEAM APPROACH
Education technologists and academics try to im-
prove their students’ 21st-century skills by using dif-
ferent learning approaches. Science, Technology, En-
gineering, Math, Art (STEAM) education is one praxis
of efforts. STEAM education contains skills, knowl-
edge, and beliefs that are collaboratively constructed
at the intersection of more than one STEAM sub-
ject area (Corlu et al. 2014). The STEAM approach
in teaching aims to prepare individuals with high
creative and innovative skills and to improve learn-
ing outcomes and prepare students to the era that
we live in. In this respect, the STEAM approach of-
fers more than the sum of all parts (disciplines) and
focuses on how to blend these disciplines in har-
mony for further understanding. Correspondingly,
The STEAM approach fundamentally deals with the
modes of conveying the skills and knowledge rather
than combining the subjects in focus. Moreover,
STEAM provides a teaching frame for instructors from
different fields to create a progressive learning envi-
ronment for students. It is a catalyst for students to
combine their science and art skills to provide inno-
vative solutions to challenging problems of the real
world.
STEAM experiences involve two or more stan-
dards from Science, Technology, Engineering, Math
and the Arts to be taught and evaluated through
each other. On the other hand, students’ under-
standing of how things work can be increased, and
their use of technologies can be developed by a true
STE(A)M education (Bybee, 2010). STEAM approach
138 |eCAADe 37 / SIGraDi 23 - Challenges - EDUCATION AND RESEARCH - Volume 1
centralizes on inquiry, collaboration, and an em-
phasis on process-based learning aiming for explor-
ing new and creative ways of problem-solving, dis-
playing data, innovation, and linking multiple fields.
STEAM provides more real-life connections to stu-
dents and teachers, and through a powerful combi-
nation of topics and techniques for educating our so-
ciety is aroused.
It is a long and controversial debate “how de-
sign education should be” and “what is designerly
way of thinking”. In all these discussions, what is con-
sented is “design is one of the most advanced think-
ing skills” for which constructivist learning becomes
the core. Constructivist learning is the way for the
mind to transform data into knowledge based on ex-
perience. Dewey (as cited in Bhattacharjee, 2015) ar-
gued that human thought is practical problem solv-
ing, which proceeds by testing opposing hypothe-
ses. These problem-solving experiences occur in a
social context, such as a classroom, where students
join together in manipulating materials and observ-
ing outcomes. (Dewey, as cited in Bhattacharjee,
2015) Since it is relying on a student-centered ap-
proach, students are encouraged to use active tech-
niques (experiments, real-world problem solving) to
construct knowledge. By designing and performing
a number of teaching practices for a well-planned
learning environment, the students learn how to ac-
quire knowledge and learn.
It should be highlighted that constructivism is
not a teaching model, but it is a frame of thought;
an ideology based on three main learning strate-
gies: experiential learning, problem-based learning
and project-based learning for which learners are ac-
tively engaged, i.e. it is learner-centered. When de-
sign education in the focus of studios is considered,
either project-based or problem based, experiences
will serve in developing such a constructivist mind-
set. In this process, the role of the instructor/mentor
is crucial.
Unlike traditional approaches, constructivism
modifies the role of the teacher by changing from
active to guiding role for helping the student to
construct knowledge. Constructivism requires ac-
tive participation of students in the learning process
rather than being a passive recipient of information
as well as the guidance of teachers to construct stu-
dents’ knowledge instead of causing mechanical in-
gestion of knowledge by them.
In this process, it is evident that each individual
has a different learning style. Kolb and Fry (1974)
say that “knowledge results from the combination
of grasping experience and transforming it. Ac-
cordingly, in this learning process, four main phases
namely; experience, reflection, conceptualization,
and experimentation take place. Successful experi-
ential learning requires that each stage being mutu-
ally supportive of and feeding into the next. Hence
controlling the learning process, properly designing
the “learning environment” by the instructor/men-
tor starting from the assignment of the problem to
the assessment, objectives, and outcomes become
the key issues as well as the skill sets to be conveyed
during the education and thereafter. Hence, revisit-
ing design education with this perspective will help
to restructure design education regarding skill sets
that are expected from the graduates of architecture
schools. For this purpose, firstly the framework for
developing modules are constructed which is then
implemented to architecture education within the
scope of the ArchiSTEAM project.
MODULE DEVELOPMENT
Teaching modules are usually conceptualized as self-
contained “units” of content. Multiple modules con-
stitute an instructional course or training program.
A unit can cover just one class or more. Likewise,
a course may contain a variety of modules whereas
a module teaches a complete skill or a meaningful
content. It usually covers just one subject and is as-
sessed independently of other modules in order to
enable flexible/adaptable course design. According
to Yelon (1996), Teaching modules are composed of
4 main components. Those are (1) Instructional ob-
jectives/Objectives, (2) Content, (3) Teaching/Learn-
ing Activities, (4) Evaluation.
Challenges - EDUCATION AND RESEARCH - Volume 1 - eCAADe 37 / SIGraDi 23 |139
Table 1
Components of a
Teaching Module
[3]
Table 2
Sub-categories of
Module Content [3]
Instructional Objectives
Instructional objectives can be viewed as outcomes
of the instruction. In other words, instructional objec-
tives are the description of the knowledge and skills
that we want students to gain during the instruction.
Although there are several approaches for writing
effective instructional objectives, S.M.A.R.T. method
(Doran, 1981) is chosen within the scope of ArchiS-
TEAM project. S.M.A.R.T. The acronym stands for:
1. Specific: Make sure that objectives make the
same sense for all including students and in-
structors.
2. Measurable: Remember that unless you de-
fine observable outcomes, you cannot know
whether learners gained the necessary knowl-
edge and skill at the end of the instruc-
tion. Thus, the student’sper formance must be
measurable by both quantitative and qualita-
tive criteria.
3. Action-oriented: Make sure that you use ac-
tion verbs in your objectives so that student’s
performance can be evaluated.
4. Realistic: Make sure that expectations from
the students are realistic in terms of condi-
tions and time given.
5. Time-Based: Make sure that students are
given proper time to attain objectives.
Content
In his instructional design model, Yelon (1996) links
content directly with the instructional objectives,
methods, and assessment. It means instructors are
required to teach students related content that will
help them gain the necessary knowledge and skills
to achieve learning outcomes and to perform suc-
cessfully on the assessment. The content should be
relevant, appropriate to the students’ background
and their learning styles and structured to provide a
meaningful learning experience. Yelon (1996) refers
to content as ”essential content to teach” and claims
that essential content has 4 sub-categories (or types
of knowledge to be taught): (1) Facts (2) Concepts
(3) Principles (4) Skills. The underlying assump-
tion behind categorizing content under 4 themes
is that each type of content requires different men-
tal processes and efforts to be learned. These sub-
categories are defined and exemplified in Table 2.
Teaching / Learning Activities
Teaching/learning activities are related to the activ-
ities conducted to convey the desired instructional
objectives to the learners. In their work, Joyce, Weil
& Calhoun (2008) categorized teaching methods un-
der 4 main themes as Social Interaction Family em-
phasizing the relationship of the individual to soci-
ety or to other persons. Gives priority to the indi-
140 |eCAADe 37 / SIGraDi 23 - Challenges - EDUCATION AND RESEARCH - Volume 1
vidual’s ability to relate to others, Information Pro-
cessing Family emphasizing the information process-
ing capability of students, Personal Family emphasiz-
ing the development of individuals, their emotional
life and selfhood, and Behavioral Modification Fam-
ily emphasizing the development of efficient systems
for sequencing learning tasks and shaping behavior.
Assessment
Assessment is the most crucial component of an in-
structional model due to its nature. Assessment
requires collecting systematic data about the stu-
dents‘ progress in the learning environment. This
data serves for several instructional purposes such as
providing evidence about how instructional objec-
tives are realistic or attainable by students, indicating
the effectiveness of the teaching method assessment
and providing evidence to make a judgment about
the students’ performance. Rating scales and check-
list are some of the most frequently used assessment
tools.
ARCHISTEAM MODULES
With the continuous development of technologies
and accumulation of data, the expected knowledge
and competencies are expiring rapidly, affecting ev-
ery profession including architecture. In this re-
spect, the STEAM modules in architecture (ArchiS-
TEAM modules) are focused on the generic skills rele-
vant to architecture which will provide learners nec-
essary tools to cope with the changing demands of
the field and professional life. Correspondingly, the
modularity and flexibility of the modules became
prominent features of the developed modules. The
primary objectives of ArchiSTEAM modules can be
expressed as follows:
The modules should be skill based instead of
knowledge based in order to be adaptable to
changing requirements of the era
The teaching/learning activities should foster
creativity
• The modules should create self-awareness
and self-motivation for life-long learning
The modules should foster professional soft
skills
The sk ills of the modules should be relevantto
architectural education yet be generic to en-
able implementation in any course within the
curricula
The modules should be flexible in terms of
conduction time and serve for varying dura-
tions of teaching activities such as workshops,
courses or entire curricula
The modules should be consistent in them-
selves to enable standalone implementation
After conducting several surveys with instruc-
tors, students and professionals, and in-depth anal-
ysis of the curricula of three partnering universities
representing different ecoles, the relevant and miss-
ing skills are determined. The detailed information
of these surveys is present in 1st and 2nd project re-
ports [1,2]. Correspondingly, the determined skills
are grouped under three categories in order to de-
velop coherent and consistent modules. These three
skill sets are namely Ground (Baseline) Skills, Problem
Based Learning Skills (PBL) and Information and Com-
munication Technologies (ICT) Skills. Ground (base-
line) skills are to facilitate adaptation/survival of indi-
viduals independent of their discipline, age or back-
ground. In general, these skills address challenges in
professional life in terms of communication and col-
laboration with close connection with skills required
to architecture profession. PBL Skills, on the other
hand, enhance problem-solving abilities through ex-
periential learning. It promotes solution oriented an-
alytical thinking and decision making. Finally, an-
other complementary skill set addressing ICT is pro-
posed to enrich the capability of students not only to
use rapidly developing information technologies but
also to prompt to develop and challenge the tech-
nological development. These skill sets are actual-
ized in three education modules together with the
instructional objectives/objectives, module content,
teaching/learning activities, and assessment meth-
ods. Each skill sets are also subdivided into several
groups with respect to the shared content and teach-
Challenges - EDUCATION AND RESEARCH - Volume 1 - eCAADe 37 / SIGraDi 23 |141
Figure 1
Intertwined nature
of the STEAM
approach and the
ArchiSTEAM
modules
Table 3
The ArchiSTEAM
modules and the
corresponding
number of Learning
Outcomes/Skills
142 |eCAADe 37 / SIGraDi 23 - Challenges - EDUCATION AND RESEARCH - Volume 1
ing/learning activities.
It should also be noted that the skills and corre-
sponding learning objectives were determined and
formulized in such a way that they form a meaning-
ful whole as well as being adaptable to any course.
In this respect, these learning objectives do not aim
to deliver a particular course content or knowledge
but aim to foster the understanding of the learner
for any course in architectural education. Yet, as the
module definition brings the necessity of being self-
contained units, the three ArchiSTEAM modules con-
stitute overlapping learning objectives, e.g. “as be-
ing able to conduct in-depth research” with nuances
in how they are put into words in PCL and ICT mod-
ules. The intert wined nature of ArchiSTEAM modules
and the STEAM approach are illustrated in Figure 1.
As a result, a total of 97 skills are determined, and the
number of kills per module is shown in Table 3.
ArchiSTEAM modules are developed to be adapt-
able to any teaching practice, regardless of its du-
ration and subject matter. Hence, they are usable
in a variety of cases from a short workshop to the
whole curriculum. In addition, these modules are
constructed to form a basis for further development.
Undoubtedly, the requirements of the next 20 years
will be different from today’s, and these modules
should be renewed continuously in coherence with
the objectives of education and in pace with current
technologies. Education technologies and method-
ologies are also subjected to be revised/modified/al-
tered in time. In this regard, any skill set such as
provided here should be revised whenever neces-
sary. The framework presented herein should be per-
ceived as a guide reflecting contemporary needs and
approaches. Moreover, it exemplifies the general
rules of thumbs and principles of content and mod-
ule design from a broader perspective. Hence, the
schema presented within the scope of this project
acts as a guideline and typical application of how to
develop a framework for the aforementioned goals.
CASE STUDIES AND REFLECTIONS
The three STEAM modules proposed within the
scope of the project are tested in two ways as;
implementation in three different courses (Digital
Design Studio, METU; Lab-based Course on Build-
ing and Architecture, UNIBO; Urban Technologies
Course, AAU) at each partnering institutions [4] and
testing through workshops organized in three dif-
ferent countries [5]. For the course implementa-
tions, the existing course syllabi are modified with re-
spect to the ArchiSTEAM modules, and the maximum
number of ArchiSTEAM skills are aimed to be imple-
mented in coherence with the content of the courses
to be implemented. For testing purposes, pre and
post surveys are conducted with the students in or-
der to trace the effect of integrating STEAM skills to
the existing courses. Similarly, in order to test the
flexibility of the modules in the time domain, three
short workshops (1 - 3 days) are conducted in three
partnering institutions in order to avoid cultural bias.
Similar pre and post surveys are conducted with the
workshop participants. The adaptation of ArchiS-
TEAM modules into education are found to be ben-
eficial in terms of enhancing the understanding of
the learners and delivering survival skills regardless
of the duration of the training, cultural background,
gender, age or educational background of the learn-
ers. Following reflections are documented with re-
spect to the feedback from the learners and instruc-
tors who experience the integration of ArchiSTEAM
modules:
Assigning an open and ill-defined problems
force students out of their comfort zone and
broaden the understanding of the students
by requiring them to confront with multiple
disciplines, which positively influences both
the design process and the final product.
Multidisciplinary and problem-oriented ap-
proach motivates the students. Students are
inspired by the implementations in other dis-
ciplines. Students are encouraged to come up
with innovative ideas pushing their own lim-
its.
Challenges - EDUCATION AND RESEARCH - Volume 1 - eCAADe 37 / SIGraDi 23 |143
Cross-disciplinarity among the teaching staff
forces instructors to engage mutually with
each other’s professional fields. Potential
inter-relatedness of the discipline reflects the
students’ collaboration habits and being able
to approach problems on a broader perspec-
tive
• ArchiSTEAM approach is beneficial for es-
tablishing high student motivation. This
approach also enables high learning out-
come, self-motivation of students, and cross-
disciplinary approach to problem-solving.
This is beneficial for both students and teach-
ers, and it likely represents a strong and pow-
erful trajectory in course development in
higher education.
The assessment process and means of assess-
ments are crucial in the learning process in re-
gard to setting the proper PBL environment
and supporting the learning process of stu-
dents.
• The STEAM approach as a way of struc-
tured integration of various disciplines in-
vokes learning experience and furnishes cre-
ativity.
ArchiSTEAM modules foster self-awareness of
the students in terms of skills they acquire
which promotes motivation to determine, re-
visit and renew expiring skills.
The role of instructors which is practiced as
mentors in the groups was very crucial. It
was seen that students could effectively work
in groups and be productive as long as men-
tors facilitate the design process by support-
ing them with proper assessments and coach-
ing techniques
The knowledge and experience acquired throughout
the project lifetime are compiled with a user-friendly
interface to provide a guideline for the instructors
who aim to follow a similar route to utilize the STEAM
approach in their courses and education programs.
This guideline is shared through the project website
and is visualized in Figure 2.
CONCLUSION
The ArchiSTEAM Project was a two-year project aim-
ing to provide the ground to establish a STEAM ap-
proach in architectural design education. The STEAM
approach is considered as an enabler for architecture
students to work in an interdisciplinary way, and to
approach design problems in a broadened perspec-
tive in their profession. It is also strongly advocated
that the STEAM approach brings innovation and cre-
ativity into the design process.
It is evident that architectural education and es-
pecially design education has always been a contro-
versial issue and each school has its own way of struc-
turing their curriculum, and yet what is most com-
mon is the implicit implementation of STEAM. It is
believed that the analysis of current curricula and
revisiting the learning outcomes/objectives with re-
spect to the STEAM approach and sustainability per-
spective will provide the opportunity to reshape ar-
chitectural education to prepare students for the era
which requires the ability to adapt to changing needs
rapidly.
In the field of architecture, three skill sets -
ground skills, PBL skills, and ICT skills - on top of the
professional skills that are gained during education
are essential for students, not only in their span of
education but also in their professional life. These
skills can be considered as green skills for the sustain-
ability of their profession. In this sense, the STEAM
approach is used as a guideline for determining the
21st-century skills and the modes of conveying those
skills to the students together with the outcomes /
possible content / teaching activities and assessment
methods. The STEAM approach also serves as a way
of structured integration of various disciplines to in-
voke learning experience and furnish creativity.
As a result of this study, three flexible and adapt-
able teaching modules are developed as an exem-
plary implementation of STEAM in architecture with
respect to the determined STEAM skill sets. These
modules are suitable for integration to any course or
training as well as permitting to a stand-alone appli-
cation. It should be noted that also the learning out-
144 |eCAADe 37 / SIGraDi 23 - Challenges - EDUCATION AND RESEARCH - Volume 1
Figure 2
WikiSTEAM
Guideline [6]
Challenges - EDUCATION AND RESEARCH - Volume 1 - eCAADe 37 / SIGraDi 23 |145
comes/objectives are not definite and should be re-
vised with the changing technologies and modes of
learning in time. In this respect, the project aims to
deliver a guideline for the andragogy of architectural
education for sustainable learning and green skills for
the 21st century.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
This paper is supported by the Turkish National
Agency and European Union’s Erasmus+ Programme
under grant agreement 2016-1-TR01-KA203-034962,
project ArchiSTEAM (Greening the Skills of Architec-
ture Students via STEAM Education) with the collabo-
ration of Middle East Technical University, University
of Bologna and Aalborg University
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[1] http://archisteam.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/0
1/O1_FINAL.pdf
[2] http://archisteam.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/1
1/o2report.pdf
[3] http://archisteam.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/1
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[4] http://archisteam.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/1
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[5] http://archisteam.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/1
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[7] http://www.battelleforkids.org/networks/p21
146 |eCAADe 37 / SIGraDi 23 - Challenges - EDUCATION AND RESEARCH - Volume 1
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Constructivist Approach to Learning-An Effective Approach of Teaching Learning
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  • Kolb
  • Fry
Kolb, DA and Fry, R 1974, 'Towards an Applied Theory of Experiential Learning', in Cooper, C (eds) 1974, Theories of Group Processes, John Wiley & Sons Retna, KS 2015, 'Thinking about "design thinking": a study of teacher experiences', Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 36(1), pp. 5-19