Shifting from teaching to learning – understanding as a collective experience.
This paper discusses the research-based teaching experience of an introductory design course in architecture and urbanism supported by Lagear (Graphics Laboratory for Architectural Experience) at the School of Architecture at Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Brazil. The experience is radically centred on a peer-to-peer learning and draws on the idea of ‘the ignorant teacher’, the one who can lead the students to learn a subject the teacher doesn’t know. It is also based on the concept of ‘cultural cannibalism’ developed by the Brazilian poet Oswald de Andrade, which in a way corresponds to the cybernetic’s propositions of circularity, feedback and conversation.
The paper describes the modular organization of the course, its principles and its evolution over the last 17 years. Currently, the main course project is an urban interactive intervention that is the culmination of four modules: perception, creation, execution and representation. Despite the incremental aspect of the modules sequence, each of which has in itself a recurrence of the fourfold structure, nesting similar discussions and increasing in complexity as the students refine their critical and instrumental abilities.
The course is based on the development of students’ abilities to self-develop further abilities. For example, instead of being taught how to use instruments, students are required to develop a design task and for that they are encouraged to find out by themselves how to use the instruments (software or hardware) needed to complete the task. This process is done in a collective way, with each student investigating a specific tool or process and then sharing the acquired knowledge with the whole group. The analysis and critic of the resulting works is also done amongst classmates. In this way they develop their own process of learning without being taught.
Thus, the development of abilities, or instrumentalization, happens by means of the critique of instruments as they are used to create content, improving not only the use of instruments but as well as the creativity. As students develop their critical ability they also improve their use of instruments. In other words, acting and understanding leads to learning and back again, in a truly entangled process. However, we face a problem that is the constraints imposed by the school curriculum. So, even if we intend to open the development of abilities in a completely critical manner, it is limited by the specificity of the training proposed in the curriculum.