PERSPECTIVES

We believe that some ideas, thoughts and experiential accounts warrant more than a 140-character tweet or a Facebook status. On this page, Drafting Dreams seeks to highlight the opinions, observations and reflections of our Founder, Design Instructors, parents and students

 

The Experience of Experiential Learning

Drafting Dreams Activities fall under the category of "experiential learning," or learning by doing, so to speak. We take pride in "tricking students into learning," which ideally is the goal of every hands-on learning experience - for the student to be subconsciously grasping a new concept or idea and for their instructor to then bring attention to the concepts or ideas said student has learned. However, is the experience of experiential learning lacking?

I have had the fortune of educating, either personally or through the use of Design Instructors that Drafting Dreams has contracted with, 150+ students since February 2016 on principles of architecture and urban design. In some instances, I was not able to teach architecture because the core competencies of the students I served were lacking. Hence, "Mr. Christian," as my students refer to me as, has had to teach English, Language Arts, Mathematics and Oral Communications to several of my classes in order for Drafting Dreams to be successful in its mission. While I have no problem supplementing what students are, or are not, learning in school, it raises the question I posed earlier: is the experience of experiential learning lacking?

As a punitive measure, I forced a group of students that I worked with to write reflections on a seminar they attended. I graded their reflections, not based on tone or the creativeness of their writing, but solely on their ability to use the mechanics of Language Arts to convey their thoughts. I was disheartened with the grades I gave them. However, most of them, prior to writing their reflections, informed me that the concepts I had discussed with them (syntax, diction, flow, etc.) had not been taught to them, and if in fact they had learned them, these concepts have not been adequately reinforced in their academic careers.

After grading their essays and having one-on-one reviews with each student, I found myself puzzled. These were the same students that: built composting bins; built chalkboards for community gardens; retro-fitted the interior of a shipping container; and drafted floor plans better than most architects can today without the use of computer aided drafting software. That is when I realized that the experience of experiential learning IS lacking - it lacks the reinforcement of the core competencies that students need to grow into functioning adults in society.

I applaud programs such as the Pittsburgh Public School's Summer Dreamers Academy, which mandates its experiential learning service providers to incorporate a connected writing assignment. I seek to implement similar strategies with Drafting Dreams activities. It is imperative that students are not inundated with hands-on learning exercises to the detriment of their English, Language Arts, Mathematics and Oral Communications skills. We do want our young scholars to attend college, correct? How can one be admitted into a college or university if he or she cannot write a coherent entrance essay, let alone be successful on the ACTs/SATs as a result of lacking core competency skills? 

Every student of mine WILL know how to write and at least perform basic mathematics, no matter what it takes on my end to make this happen.

 

By:

Christian J. Hughes,                        NOMA, Associate AIA, M.Arch

Founder & Education Director,       Drafting Dreams

Sunday, June 3, 2016

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