A study on learning and teaching construction technology related to design : a case for architectural schools in Malaysia
Analysis on the present architectural education system shows that there are problems with the understanding of construction technology in relation to the designing process. Earlier analysis of the problems showed that there are several underlying problems in the schools covering various aspects which pointed to the relevance of the current design practice, the experience and expertise on the parts of the lecturers and the updated references provided by the schools. The inefficiency of the schools in handling these underlying problems affecting the efficiency on the learning and teaching experiences of the subject. Accepting these problems, the study looks into the consequences of these problems in learning and teaching experiences of construction technology in relation to the overall understanding of design. Architectural learning systems were reviewed and analyzed showing that the problems are largely due to students failure to grasp the basic principles of construction technology and relating them to the design process, in respect of forms and functions, time and places, and proper adaptation of design with art, history, philosophy, culture and technology. This failure affects the students overall performance in design. Consequently, effective learning methods and requirements to architectural education in the learning of technical matters specifically in construction technology is considered a significant area for study. This thesis focuses on this issue. It tries to explore and understand the nature of the problems and aim to determine which methods or approaches appropriate based on theoretical formulation on the architectural learning requirements specifically for the learning and understanding of construction technology and its relationship in the designing process. It is therefore imperative that these theoretical formulation be based on empirical evidence. The purpose of this thesis is to conduct such empirical evidence. Detailed studies were carried out on the historical development of learning construction technology in relation to the architectural design process, theories of learning and teaching methods adopted in the present architectural education in order to understand the problems and its relationship to each other. For a meaningful and effective learning experience, three vital ingredients are essential: the learning methods adopted by the students, the prior knowledge (the experience) of the students, and the teaching methods employed. This thesis attempts to investigate these three components amongst architectural students and lecturers. An exploratory interviews with the students and lecturers were carried out in Malaysia as a case study in order to understand the problems and the final investigation using the quantitative questionnaires were used to provide the empirical evidence. Overall, the findings of this research support the following main conclusions: First, there are differences in the individual learning characteristics of the students. For example, those who have difficulties in understanding construction technology tend to associate themselves with rote learning, practicing sequential designing process, learning for passing examination and lack of motivation. Obviously, they are lacking in understanding the principles of construction technology thus, unable to relate these knowledge when he or she is working on a design. This empirical evidence revealed the first step in identifying key causes to the problems of learning and understanding construction technology in relation to the designing process. The second finding is in the aspect of prior knowledge in construction technology (exposure and experience to pragmatic applications) which is found to be essential in providing a better understanding (meaningful learning) on the aspects of relating construction theories into the designing process. The results support the influence of experiential learning in architectural education system. The third is in the aspects of the teaching methods whereby, teaching methods which promote experiences appear to be more needed by the students to the conventional teaching practices. Moreover, an inverse relationship on the methods of teaching construction technology preferred by the students and the lecturers were also found to be significant. This mismatched situation proved the gap in the teaching/learning requirements in the present architectural learning system. Finally, significant relationships were found between understanding construction technology and the performance of the students in the designing process in the aspect of: the ability of the students to think construction and design (theory and practical) concurrently, to relate construction method, techniques and materials into design, to relate construction technology with the whole design requirements and to use construction technology as one of a design generator and hence, resulting in a superior design results and producing a more confident students. This implies that understanding construction technology is interrelated with understanding on the practical application of construction technology into designing process as a whole. Finally an overall conclusion of the study, its contribution, limitations and implications for further research are discussed.