Jose dos Santos Cabral Filho’s Paper Proposal

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. In recent years the course has evolved and became grounded in second-order Cybernetics, which allows a structure open to organizational indeterminacy aiming at the autonomy of students.

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 them 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 is the first level of the learning process , which 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 not only develop their own process of learning without being taught in the traditional sense, as well as become competent in criticizing the instruments as they create content using them. Moreover, they are encouraged to abuse the instruments in a creative way, for instance, using computer aided design software to represent the sensations they had when raising data regarding a specific space for which they will propose an interactive intervention. They are required to produce a sensitive sequence of scenes of this place, including 2D images, 3D models and time. This can only be done by abusing known software and is directly tied to encouraging the students to play with a simplification of Pask’s entailment mesh, creating their own initial tool to deal with the space they choose to intervene. For each sensation they register at the chosen place, they attribute two substances that gives origin to it and two actions that might be triggered from it. A simplified entailment mesh starts to grow from this process, leading to an abstract idea of the interactive intervention. Instead of using conventional form-based process of design, the students create their own tool to inform their design, opening up possibilities for different concrete spatial articulations to emerge in response to the abstract problematization they have reached with the entailment mesh.

However, the balance between curriculum determination and the development of students’ autonomy has been something difficult to negotiate. We face the constraints imposed by the school curriculum, which is still very much based on teaching the use of tools and transmitting content. That is, the school curriculum limits the development of abilities in a completely critical manner and also constrains a possible repercussion of the work done in the first semester on the rest of the course.

Cybernetic traditions:

  • 7) Art; design; music; literature
  • 5) Education and conversation

1 thought on “Jose dos Santos Cabral Filho’s Paper Proposal

  1. Claudia Jacques

    Jose, I am super exited that we will be participating on the same panel. Graziele Lautenschlaeger introduced me to Lagear’s work a few years ago. I am curious to hear how human perception and meaning are included in the cybernetic learning process you describe.


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