Structure for Architects – Student Video Lessons

Structure for Architects – Student Video Lessons

Ramsey Dabby

Architectural Technology Dept / City Tech

Structures 1

Activity Description: Provide a brief description of the activity

Activity Description
The overriding mission of the college experience is to help City Tech students succeed in the classroom and beyond, by imparting an enthusiasm for lifelong learning. This enthusiasm can be dampened for City Tech’s multicultural population by the cultural obstacles many students face. The concept for this proposal is to enhance the student experience for a course titled “Structures” in the Architectural Technology Department, by stimulating an enthusiasm for this particular area of their studies. The idea encompasses a visual and intuitive approach within the classroom, combined with place-based learning outside the classroom. Aside from conveying technical knowledge, the intent is to create student awareness of cultural barriers that will help them navigate the complexities of today’s world.

In a multicultural setting such as NYC in general and City Tech in particular, cultural divides abound. They can be obvious like nationality and religion, or more subtle like age and personality. They can also occur within the profession between its white collar “architectural” and blue color “construction” sides. Caught up in day-to-day problems, we (both students and instructors) tend to overlook these divides that create tensions and stresses in relationships.

Structures is a branch of architectural study dealing with the engineering side of how buildings stand up. Architectural students, as conceptual thinkers, tend to be intimidated by the technical aspects of engineering and tend to “turn off” to their engineering courses. Added to this inherent aversion are the cultural barriers many City Tech students face such as language, family responsibilities, and deficient social support systems. For many, this also includes having to learn a new system of engineering units used in the US – the imperial system in place of their more familiar metric system. In short, the challenge is to address and overcome these cultural obstacles and create an enthusiasm for a course that holds the potential for dread in many architectural students.

Learning Goals: What do you aim to achieve with this activity?

The goal is to engage students and create enthusiasm for a course in Structures that will serve to further their undergraduate technical knowledge and professional lives upon graduation. This will be done through strategies for both classroom and place-based learning.

Classroom Learning
Conventional structural textbooks tend to be wordy and lacking an intuitive approach to the subject matter. These textbooks present a challenge to City Tech’s multicultural architectural students. Course material will be communicated across cultural and linguistic barriers by conveying structural principles in a visual, intuitive manner through discussion, dialog, and physical “props”, rather than formal “lectures”.

A key component of classroom sessions will be a series of short, five-minute student videos highlighting the essentials of structural principles. Students will be teamed to prepare these videos in discussion format, among themselves and their instructor, supported by physical props. The precedence for these videos is an experimental one I had prepared, without rehearsal and just for fun, to which students enthusiastically responded, overwhelmingly endorsing the concept and asking for more like it.

Place-Based Learning
The classroom experience will be complemented by visits to architectural offices and construction sites, where students will not only will see the professions in action, but also observe the general cultural distinctions and personalities of the two sides of the profession. A goal of these visits to create an awareness that technical knowledge does not work in a vacuum, and that an understanding the interrelationships of personalities, influenced by culture, is an essential part of a successful professional experience.

Timing: At what point in the lesson or semester do you use this activity? How much classroom time do you devote to it? How much out-of-class time is expected?

The strategy is intended to be used throughout the semester. Classroom time will be approximately 10 minutes per session. Two place-based learning field trips will be conducted for a total of approximately 8 hours per semester.

Logistics: What preparation is needed for this activity? What instructions do you give students? Is the activity low-stakes, high-stakes, or something else?

See above.

Assessment: How do you assess this activity? What assessment measures do you use? Do you use a VALUE rubric? If not, how did you develop your rubric? Is your course part of the college-wide general education assessment initiative?

Assessment will be conducted by student essays reflecting on questions such as “why do I like this?” and “what is it that helps me learn?”

Reflection: How well did this activity work in your classroom? Would you repeat it? Why or why not? What challenges did you encounter, and how did you address them? What, if anything, would you change? What did students seem to enjoy about the activity?

Lead discussion on ways to learn without cultural coding; record outcomes of discussions.

Additional Information: Please share any additional comments and further documentation of the activity – e.g. assignment instructions, rubrics, examples of student work, etc. These can be links to pages or posts on the OpenLab.

The experimental video can be found at

Please share a helpful link to a pages or post on the OpenLab

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