Orr, Kevin and Gao, Yun (2011) Becoming an Architect: the role of work-based learning in architect training. In: 7th International Conference on Researching Work and Learning, December 4 - 7, 2011, East China Normal University, Shanghai, China. (Unpublished)

This paper examines the little researched work-based learning (WBL) element of architect training and sits within the Professional Work and Learning stream. It investigates the experience of architecture students placed in architectural practices as part of their university course. This element of architect training is considered within the broad field of research into WBL and is analysed using concepts of situated learning. The paper draws on qualitative data from semi-structured interviews with twenty students at a university in northern England to provide instrumental case studies of what architecture students do and what they learn during the extended work-based elements of their training. These interviews were transcribed and coded to investigate students’ experiences and perceptions in relation to their learning and their ‘becoming’ architects. Just as learning to be an architect partly occurs outside university, this learning entails more than the accumulation of professional skills or knowledge. It involves the construction of new identities. The transition from student to architect is considered by exploring how social relationships within an architectural workplace enabled students to participate, make judgements and so to form their identity as architects. The level of participation and responsibility given to students differed widely between the workplaces, with those in smaller practices generally having more diverse duties. All the students explicitly described the experience as formative and often described its ‘authenticity’ in contrast to the university-based course element. The latter element focused on design; the placement entailed acting like an architect involved in problem solving. This reshaped perceptions both of what it is to be an architect and notions of ‘good’ architecture. Arising from these findings, the paper suggests how the university element of architect training could better articulate with and prepare for WBL placements.

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