3 Pedagogical Case studies

ACADEMIC CONTEXT

Within the framework of IMPROPAL, the Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning [henceforth FAU], together with the Department for Teacher Training [henceforth DTT] of the Technical University of Cluj-Napoca [henceforth TUCN] have developed a subproject on Formative Assessment [henceforth FA]. In the framework of several teaching activities different methods of fostering student active learning have been developed and tested. This has implied the reconsideration of the ways in which assessment takes place and feedback is provided, to students about their learning and to teachers both about their teaching and about their assessment. 

Introduction

In the following lines, the academic context of these experiences is described. The Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning offers a six-year, bachelor-and-master-included academic programme. FAU was founded in 1970 as a specialized department of the Faculty of Civil Engineering, and became an independent faculty in 1998. Currently, it represents the most important learning centre in the domain of architecture in north-western Romania. Integrating the first and second (Master) cycles, education spans over 6 years (12 semesters) and implies acquiring 360 academic credits (ECTS). The title conferred by the Diploma is that of Architect – Specialisation Architecture. The Faculty prepares general specialists in the fields of architectural- and urban design, urban planning, conservation and restoration, furniture and interior design and landscape design. The academic structure consists in two departments: the Department of Architecture and the Department of Urban Planning. The organization of the curricula aims at a progressive assimilation of professional abilities and acquiring of the qualifications necessary in the practice of architecture. The education is built upon the idea of a formative evolution of the student, while objectives and methods are permanently updated.       

A progressive growth in complexity of the study problematic is accompanied by the diversification of didactic methodology as well as of the professional options, by offering several formative routes. Equally important to the Faculty’s mission are: the establishment of a balanced ratio among the distinct professional fields in the architectural formation as well as the integration of the education on practice with theoretical thinking; the establishment of a sensitive and democratic relation between students and teachers, inside the architecture studios, during the practical works, the research and PhD studies, so that the professional growth of each student may be stimulated; the continuous validation of the quality of teaching by inviting professors from foreign universities to take part in the final project juries, as well as via the results obtained by students during their study mobilities to EU countries; the maintenance of an open dialogue with the local, national and international professional organizations, through the organisation of joint events such as workshops, conferences and exhibitions.

Within the FAU curriculum there are three main groups of teaching activities, or disciplines, involving quite different forms of assignment and assessment: (1) project work; (2) seminars (practical assignments) accompanying the theoretical disciplines (courses); (3) theoretical disciplines (courses).

 

(1) PROJECT WORK 

Project work constitutes the basis of the architectural curriculum, representing about 50% of the teaching hours. For instance, architectural design studios, the main type of project work, are allocated 10 to 12 hours every week, each semester. These activities consist in two coaching sessions every week, whereby formative feedback is provided to each student / pair of students, depending on how the project is organised. In the architectural education vocabulary, these are called ‘crits’. Other students are encouraged to attend; there are also open intermediate crits, one or two each semester, whereby feedback is provided along with intermediary marks, based on project presentation in front of the group; final presentations – critical session in which: all projects are pinned up on the workshop walls; students present their work to the teacher group and in front of other students; feedback is given to each project; after having reviewed all projects, marks are communicated and feedback on the group as whole is provided: general strengths, common mistakes, recommendations etc.

The intrinsic embedding of formative feedback in project work activities is thus obvious. This is the case in vocational education in general, since it is especially through formative discussion on work-in-progress drafts that learning takes place. Therefore, in the frame of architectural higher education provided by FAU-TUCN, the main challenge regarding FA within the Impropal project has been to better embed it in the other two types of teaching activities: seminars and courses. Therefore, project work activities of FAU within Impropal are detailed under Intellectual Output 4 – Project Work.

(2) SEMINARS accompanying theoretical disciplines or courses

Seminar work is designed to fix and assess learning from the theoretical disciplines or course; usually, seminar work takes place every week or every second week, consisting in two-hours short design exercises; exercise content is communicated beforehand and students may be asked to prepare a documentation about the next seminar’s theme; during seminar work the teacher assists each student in solving an applicative assignment, related to the current course topics. The teacher provides formative work-in-progress feedback during the two-hour activity, to each student and to the group of c.12 students. After the assignments are handed-in, the work receives summative assessment too. Seminars are valuable teaching contexts for on-going formative evaluation, connecting theory and practice, as well as they are valuable feedback sources for teachers, regarding the reception and appropriation by students of topics taught in courses.

Case studies in FA for seminars have been undertaken for the disciplines Art History (2nd year) and Urban Residential (2nd year) during 2015-16 and 2016-17. During 2017-18, the third year of the Impropal project, a set of curricular changes at the FAU level transformed both two disciplines into courses without seminars. The change strategy implemented by the FAU leadership as of 2017-18 focused reduced the number of parallel-running practical works, in order to allow students to better focus on the design studios, while increasing the hour and credit number of the latter.[1]

(3) THEORETICAL DISCIPLINES / COURSES

Courses are theoretical disciplines within the architectural curriculum, generally consisting in weekly two-hour lectures, during the 14 weeks of each semester, thus a usual amount of 28 hours/course. There are two types of courses in the FAU curriculum: compulsory courses, attended by the entire year of study – c.90 students and optional courses, attended by 25-30 students. At a normative level, this type of instruction does not require intermediate assessments and does not intrinsically contain time and occasions for work-in-progress discussions. Therefore, at the FAU courses appeared as the type of teaching activity whereby FA would be most relevant to implement, since for (1) Projects and (2) Seminars the use of FA is self-understood.

Case studies in FA have been carried out for the courses:

– compulsory courses: Elements of Environment Studies (1st year), during 2015-18; Evolution of the city (2nd year), during 2015-17; History of Architecture (2nd and 4th years) during 2015-18; Urban Residential (2nd year), during 2017-18 and Art History (2nd year), during 2017-18 (during 2015-17 the two last disciplines included seminars);

– optional courses: Architecture in Film (6th year) during 2015-16 and 2016-17; History of Modern and Contemporary Art 1 & 2 (5th year), during 2015-16 and 2016-17; Arts and Architecture (5th year) during 2017-2018.

 

EXAMPLES OF FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT METHODS AND TECHNIQUES IMPLEMENTED AT FAU-TUCN

 

Teaching activity Student group:

study level,

group size,

teaching time

 

Description of applied FA methods Critical overview
Short tests

 

ELEMENTS OF ENVIRONMENT STUDIES

 

compulsory course

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mihaela Ioana Agachi

1st year

 

 

 

 

compulsory course:

c100 students

2h weekly

 

·                             As a Formative Assessment exercise, students received a 30’ short test. They had to solve one problem taught at the previous course, the solution having been drawn on the blackboard. To solve the problem, students were allowed to consult their notebooks.

·                             The exercise is meant to raise awareness about the importance of note-taking quality, in other words, about the importance of actively and continuously attending the course.

·                             Out of the 90 collected tests, 9 tests (i.e. 10%) were selected for feedback, less than half of them being solved correctly.

·                             During the following course, the 9 selected tests were scanned, projected and discussed in front of the class, in order to cover as much as possible the different solving situations encountered.

·                             The large number of students naturally makes impossible any attempt of providing formative feedback to every student. Nevertheless, it is possible to provide relevant, general feedback to the entire group, based on a selection of individual papers and making sure to select different persons at each feedback session.

·                             The time span of this test (30’), together with the required feedback time (also c.30’), naturally limits the number of such FA exercises possible to implement during one semester.

ART HISTORY

compulsory course with seminar

in 2015-16; 2016-17

 

 

 

 

 

 

ART HISTORY

compulsory course

in 2017-18

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cristina Purcar

2nd year

 

course:

c100 students

2h weekly

 

seminar:

c12 students

2h every 2nd week

·                             In 2015-16 10’ tests have been given weekly, at the end of each 2h course, asking a question regarding the day’s topics.

·                             In 2016-17 10’ tests have been given every second week, at the end of each 2h seminar, asking a question regarding the week’s topics.

·                             In 2017-18, due to curricular changes the course did not include seminars anymore; 10’ tests have been given at the end of 8 out of the 14 course weeks.

·                             During all three years, the short tests received summative assessment although they were optional (a student may choose not to hand in the test); the points would cumulate and be added to the final evaluation summative assessment; if the response of a test was not satisfactory, the student did not receive any point.

·                             In 2015-16, because of the large number of tests to evaluate weekly it was difficult to provide feedback in relevant time.

·                             In 2016-17, associating the short tests with the seminars was effective, the small student group allowing the time to provide individual feedback at every next seminar.

·                             In 2017-18, the short tests were re-tailored to accommodate the absence of seminars. The number of short tests was reduced to 8 (compared to 14 in 2015-16). First, feedback was provided globally. Then, one/two students who gave remarkable answers were cited; faults or misunderstandings were also mentioned, but without naming the students in case.

·                             Given the relatively beginner level of the 2nd year students, frequently applied short tests, followed by FA, have much potential in helping students monitor their progress and teachers monitor the reception of their teaching.

HISTORY OF CONTEMPORARY ART 1 & 2

optional course

in 2015-16

 

ARTS AND ARCHITECTURE

optional course

in 2017-18

 

 

 

Cristina Purcar

5th year

 

 

optional course:

c15-20 students

2h weekly

 

 

·                             In 2015-16, 30’ tests have been given two times during the 14-week semester, asking questions from the previous lectures.

·                             In 2017-18, the two courses were condensed into a single one-semester course, carrying a different title. 10’ tests were applied 5 times during the 14-week semester. The students had to comment on a given work of art, related to the current course topic.

·                             The responses were commented on at the next course and each sufficiently relevant answer was graded one point that would cumulate into the final evaluation grade.

·                             The relatively small number of students made brief individual feedback possible.

·                             The relatively advanced level of the 5th year students justifies less frequent FA tests as well as allows for more individualised assignments (see “Work-in-progress drafts” below).

·                             Although short tests are always optional and students may choose not participating, our experiences show that non-participation in short tests is exceptional. Generally, students do appreciate having the opportunity of measuring their learning achievements before the final evaluation and receiving feedback on their current learning level.

Work-in-progress drafts

 

ELEMENTS OF ENVIRONMENT STUDIES •

EVOLUTION OF THE CITY

compulsory courses

in 2015-17

 

Mihaela Ioana Agachi

1st year

 

 

 

 

compulsory courses:

c100 students

2h weekly

 

·                             As part of the final evaluation, students received an individual research assignment, which represented 30% of the final grade.

·                             The subject choice and drafts of the research paper received formative feedback from the teacher during the semester.

·                             The large number of students naturally limited the extent and the number of occasions for formative feedback; nevertheless, it was possible to provide feedback to the entire group, based on a selection of individual papers and making sure to select different persons at each feedback session.

·                             Limiting the weight of the research paper to 30% of the final grade is justified by the relatively beginner lever of the 1st year students.

HISTORY OF CONTEMPORARY ART 2

optional course

in 2015-16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cristina Purcar

5th year

 

 

optional course:

c15-20 students

2h weekly

 

·                             In the 2nd semester of 2015-16, students were given a list of individual assignment topics, from which they could choose one. The chosen topic represented the title and theme of an imaginary site-specific contemporary art exhibition, which they had to curate. The invited artists, works, as well as the exhibition site were each student’s choice; students also had to prepare an exhibition presentation booklet.

·                             The assignment – booklet and oral presentation – was the requirement for the final evaluation at the end of the term. The project work-in-progress drafts were formatively assessed during the semester. Brief written individual feedback was also provided on the handed-in final work, after the exam.

·                             The relatively small number of students made individual feedback possible at four key moments of the assignment elaboration: topic selection; artist and art works selection; site selection; draft of the booklet text.

·                             The relatively advanced level of the 5th year students justifies the individualised assignments and in turn stimulates active engagement with the studied topic.

·                             Students had the choice of not doing the exhibition individual assignment and opt for a standard questionnaire final exam. However, none of the students chose the later option, which proves the interest of co-creative, individualised assignments, involving individual research and personalised formative feedback.

Pre-given key terms ARTS AND ARCHITECTURE

optional course

in 2017-18

 

 

 

 

Cristina Purcar

5th year

 

 

optional course:

c15-20 students

2h weekly

 

·                             The augmented lecture method was applied at several moments, using the technique of pre-given key terms.

·                             A discussion was launched on a given topic indicated by the teacher. Students were invited to give their opinion about e.g., interpretations of a given work of art, or meanings of a given art term. A highly relevant comment was rewarded by 1p, adding up to the final grade.

·                             This technique stimulates active engagement with the topics at stake. The relatively small number of students allows for sufficient student-teacher interaction opportunities.

·                             Had the discussion been purely formative, it is uncertain whether participation would be on the same level: in graded pre-given key terms there is a risk of establishing a rather commercial student-teacher relationship.

Gallery tour

 

ART HISTORY

compulsory course with seminar

in 2015-16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cristina Purcar

2nd year

 

course:

c100 students

2h weekly

 

seminar:

c12 students

2h every 2nd week

·                             The seminars occasioned the elaboration of five individual assignments on A3 format, in mixed, graphic and written, technique.

·                             The students were free to choose each assignment subject – a visual and textual reading of an art work – out of a given art historical period.

·                             At the end of the semester, an exhibition was organised, displaying the most successful graphic works in the Faculty foyer. The works were thus visible for students from all years.

·                             The “gallery tour” allows the students see, discuss and assess, be inspired by their peers’ work. At the same time, students from different years of study get an insight into what has been taught and learned and have the occasion of expressing their opinions, informally.

·                             The “gallery tour” also allows the fellow teachers see and formatively assess the work conducted by their faculty colleagues.

·                             Organising the exhibition requires time and space resources that may not always be available.

·                             Gallery tours, mainly displaying graphic and/or 3D works, are highly appropriate FA techniques in artistic and architectural higher education, but may not be well suited for other academic fields.

Peer-assessment

& self-assessment

 

ARCHITECTURE IN FILM

optional course

in 2015-16

 

 

 

 

 

 

Virgil Pop

6th year

 

optional course:

c15-20 students

2h weekly

 

 

·                             The course assignment was to choose one of the films presented in class, create a poster for the film and present the poster and its concept in front of the class.

·                             Students had to give a grade to each of their colleagues and also to predict their own grade, as it would result from the collective grading.

·                             If a student’s self-grading was accurate, he/she would receive one extra point.

 

·                             This FA method encourages students to actively learn from their colleagues’ production and oral presentations and develops both their critical and their self-critical abilities.

·                             Being able to confront self-assessment with peer-assessment is an effective formative assessment tool for both students and teachers.

Case-study

presentations

 

ART HISTORY

compulsory course with seminar

in 2016-17

 

compulsory course

in 2017-18

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cristina Purcar

2nd year

 

course:

c100 students

2h weekly

 

 

·                             The students were invited, on optional basis, to prepare and present in front of the class, a 10’ case study selected by themselves, out of a range of art-historical topics.

·                             In 2016-2017 there were 10% of the students choosing to present self-documented case studies. The other students and the teacher asked questions and/or made comments.

·                             In 2017-2018 there were 8% of the students choosing to present self-documented case studies via PowerPoint. In turn, this was compensated by c50% of the students choosing to hand-in graphic case studies on A3 format, documenting an artwork of their choice.

·                             Case studies received points that cumulated in the final grade.

·                             In 2017-2018, both the oral case study presentations and the graphic case studies were facilitated by the possibility for students to consult next week’s course material online, in order to choose the topics and the related notions (see Flipped Learning in the file TUCN io1 3 Case study experiments).

·                             Thanks to their previous contact with the day’s course material, students having chosen to hand in a graphic case study were also able to actively participate in the intensified lecture’s interactive moments, introducing a specific notion to their colleagues or answering the teacher’s questions.

 

ERASMUS

experiences assessed by former outgoing Erasmus students for the benefit of prospective outgoing Erasmus students

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cristina Purcar

students from

2nd, 3rd, 4th

study years,

on optional basis

 

March 2018

·                             An information session about the Erasmus mobilities available to the students of the Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning (under the Erasmus+ KA1 programme) was organised several weeks before the current academic year Erasmus selection contest.

·                             The students that went on Erasmus mobilities during 2016-2017 were invited to present their host institution. They had to make assessments and illustrate: academic life and academic infrastructures, study programmes and grading systems, but also city life aspects. They were asked to emphasise on study content, particularly showing the projects they have been working on abroad – the core of the architectural education.

·                             17 former Erasmus students presented 14 potential Erasmus destinations. C.55-60 other students attended, asking questions and having the opportunity to be thus informed about the options available for them in the coming Erasmus contest.

·                             This is an effective self-assessment exercise for the former Erasmus students. They develop their synthesis skills, having to bring into a coherent 10’ presentation the complex experiences of one or two semesters. They also develop their presentation skills, speaking in front of unknown students from different study years.

·                             For the prospective Erasmus students, it is an occasion to preview and compare the available mobility options.

·                             For the faculty teachers attending the presentations it is an occasion to compare teaching methods and assignment types to their own.

·                             To improve the formative quality of this (ideally yearly) event, a clearer structure of the presented material should be provided in the future, in order to facilitate comparison between the different Erasmus partners’ architectural education systems.

 

The practicing of the different FA methods in the frame of the Impropal project allowed the project team to realise the importance of an appropriate correlation between the following:

  • FA objective: e.g. stimulate awareness for active learning; continuous checking-up student progress in order to adjust teaching; feedback on student work, during the work, etc.
  • the FA method / technique
  • type of teaching activity (lectures; lectures-with-seminars; projects), which determines the
  • size of student group (ranging from entire study year, c 100 stud.; one study semi-group, c.12 stud.; pairs of students and individual project supervision)
  • level of academic studies: e.g. first four years; last two years; PhD.
  • frequency of FA: ranging from weekly to once every semester.

One sensitive issue has been the need to better motivate final-year(s) students, who are already part-time employed in (architectural) practices, to involve more actively with the curricular activities; to make them aware that their current employment may not satisfy them on the longer run and that engaging with the academic activities on a minimal-effort basis (“pass is enough” attitude), may prove highly dangerous for their further professional exigencies.

In order to have time for discussing the previous-week short tests in class, the proper teaching time must naturally be slightly reduced. Also, in order to engage students to participate in the intensified lecture interactive moments, it is necessary to free some of the content-delivery time. This can be done in conjunction with Flipped Learning (see the file TUCN io1 3 Case study experiments).

The other direction, triggered by reflecting on how to promote active learning, especially among higher-level students, has been trying to find better ways of linking the academic studies with practice, but also with research. This triggers the need to correlate Formative Assessment with Co-Creative Learning (see the file TUCN io3 3 Case study experiments). It has been realised that FA may become more effective when feedback on student-teacher performance is provided not only by student to teachers and vice-versa, but also by actors of the professional, after-graduation environment: practitioners, mission-providers, researchers and alumni. While necessarily mediated and monitored by the academic staff, we consider these interconnections as highly valuable factors for increasing student-learning motivation.

[1] The current FAU curriculum can be found here.