Rethinking the Computer Lab: an Inquiry-Based Methodology for Teaching Computational Skills - Nick Senske

Two years ago, the UNC Charlotte School of Architecture began a new curriculum initiative to teach computational design to all of its students. As a capstone to the beginning design sequence, the school now teaches a required methods course to over 70 students a year. The objective of the course is for students to learn essential computational skills and ideas that will prepare them for parametric tools such as Revit and advanced digital techniques found in later studios. However, learning how to think about and make things computationally can be difficult for many students. Issues of affect and conceptual misunderstandings must be overcome in order to learn skills and knowledge that will transfer beyond the course. This paper attempts to address the question: How can schools of architecture teach computation in a manner that is engaging and successful for a large and varied cohort of students? The author proposes that inquiry-based labs, which are more active and motivating than traditional tutorial- based labs, can address some of the challenges of teaching computation to architecture students. In support of this claim, the author presents the findings of a two-year pilot study to examine the effects of the new labs.