Volume 9 · Number 3 · Pages 393–402
Radical Constructivist Structural Design Education for Large Cohorts of Chinese Learners

Christiane M. Herr

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Context: Structural design education in architecture is typically conceived as a scientific subject taught in a lecture format and based on a transactional view of learning. This approach misses opportunities to contribute to and integrate with design-studio-based architectural education. Problem: How can radical constructivism inform a design-based pedagogy of structural design in the context of large cohorts of Chinese learners? Method: The paper outlines how radical constructivist and second order cybernetic perspectives are reflected in an alternative educational approach to structural design. This approach encourages students’ individual learning while negotiating constraints deriving from large cohorts as well as the educational expectations of Chinese learners. Results: Teaching outcomes as well as students’ comments show successes in engaging students in adopting a more personal and active attitude in their learning. Students appreciate and praise learning grounded in experience as well as collaborative, peer-led learning. Challenges remain in establishing a more dialogical learning situation and in supporting individual students’ learning in large student cohorts. Implications: Limitations arise from the constraints imposed by large cohorts, limited manpower and an institutional preference for teaching towards written examinations. The research and teaching development presented are ongoing. This paper may inform educators in the fields of architecture and engineering as well as, more generally, educators who seek to develop their teaching based on a radical constructivist epistemology in the context of large cohorts. Constructivist content: The teaching approach presented links a radical constructivist perspective based on Ernst von Glasersfeld’s work with second-order cybernetics in the context of design-based education. The paper discusses challenges and opportunities for this approach in the context of large cohorts of Chinese learners.

Key words: Experiential learning, Ernst von Glasersfeld,learning through design, feedback, Chinese learners.


Herr C. M. (2014) Radical constructivist structural design education for large cohorts of chinese learners. Constructivist Foundations 9(3): 393–402. http://constructivist.info/9/3/393

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