Architecture is not an individual activity and not separated from others. any architectural activity in any part of the world is finally accounted as an effective presence in a team work, albeit in various ranges. construction of the smallest urban pixel (home) would involve us at the same time in an inevitable interaction with street, region, city & etc. in other words, creating an architectural work, whether small or large, would always seem contribution in a larger team work, since architecture finds meaning in texture, theme, and environment and without these wouldn’t have existence.

It is amazing when we briefly look back at the subjects and whatever we learned through architectural courses. we never come across to contribution and engagement. whereas architecture is a social and team activity in the outside world and it requires essential skills such as sympathy, coordination, cooperation and gathering. for instance, a student who is segregated from all outside realities and elements, individually designs areas and live urban elements and then as a designer and ‘divine wisdom’ tries to make decisions. Unfortunately, we have witnessed the undesirable results of this type of training so far.

due to my 26 years of teaching architectural design – generally in urban housing fields – and by keeping the above in mind, this matter is always bothering me.  through my endeavours to convey the concepts of ‘obligation’ and ‘engagement’ to students i have gained experiences which would be brought to your attention in this approuch. the procedure of introducing the ‘engagement’ hopefully provides the elaboration and description of previous experiences.



engagement theory was formed from the experiences of electronic training founders and specialists through training activities. (Shneiderman, 1994; 1998)

the basic ideology of this theory is a meaningful training with objective, and transferring this concept and objective through interactivity of students with each other and responsibility and obligation consciousness.

training from this theory’s point of view is to involve all mental and physical activities of the trainee with active conceptual processes such as creativity, problem solving, logic, decision making, and evaluation.

Basics of Engagement Theory

engagement theory is based on forming a unified team who at the same time are studying and working on an external credible project – meaningful for individuals outside of the class.   we can put this theory in three basic principles as below:

Relation: training in texture of a unified team

Creation: training during formation and creation of a specified project

Donation: external credibility for training activities and the possibility of providing the project to the real world out of class. (Kearsley & Shneiderman, 2002; Shneiderman,1988)

the first principle, relation, is about involvement of trainees with each other and developing their capabilities in establishing relation, planning, management and applying social skills.

researches show that trainees during cooperation process have to elaborate and express their problems and in this regard it is required to survey deeply the problems and be capable to introduce and discuss them.  also the contribution of the team members increases the trainees’ motivation to learn and gain skills. (Kearslet & Shneiderman, 2002)

more over once the trainees are working in a team would have the opportunity to work and interact with others. this may introduce them to various views and ideas and help them to understand the profusion of views, objectives and solutions.

according to the second principle, creation, training is a creative process and on the basis of decision and understanding.  through introducing and developing a specified project, the trainees may enter to this process.

in this situation the trainees elaborate the issue and should concentrate his activity on providing and applying appropriate theories and solutions in a determined and specified texture. managing a private project is very interesting and attractive for trainees, and even they have not chosen the project by themselves, they still have control over their training. (Barrows & Tamblyn, 1980)

the third principle, donation, emphasizes on the importance of the profitable and creditable training activity. it means that the profitability or the possibility of this issue for the student projects is for the real life and outside of classrooms. training in the theme of a profitable and creditable project would greatly increase the trainees’ satisfaction. (Jacoby, et al, 1996)


a brief study of lessons, and shortly observing the process in workshops of architectural design reveals that: introducing a specified and defined project and leading the students to answer all requirements of the project – for providing an appropriate design – are generally consist of aspects of the above mentioned principles ‘creativity’ and ‘donation’. but the other principle which is an essential and inseparable essence due to the nature of the architecture process has been ignored and has no place during the training course.

training of basics, procedures, and skills of architectural design during formation and creation of a defined project is an established and routine approach in most or may be all architecture schools and faculties. in this procedure, the pupil in order to create a small or large architectural work – proposed by instructors according to their capabilities and training requirements – conduct an assignment similar to his professional activity which during this process he comes to conclusion, credibility, and benefit of theoretical courses and also learns design methods and skills.

in this regard instructors have a complicated and polyhedral role. one part of their responsibilities is: choosing appropriate subject for the project, deliberately and proportionally providing required data; introducing appropriate models for conclusion and optimum applying of theory in theoretical courses. in this regard, assimilated to the external realities, the role of instructors as the employer and/or the work addressee is more important and accordingly has greater responsibility. the architecture teacher in this status compulsively is the conveyor of values, requirements, and even the social reactions of the work and the most important the professional morale.

in spite of these complications, the students would manage their personal projects and consequently feel self control over their training and gain valuable and polyhedral skills. as mentioned before, in this procedure the student would have the opportunity to take part in a creative process and in an activity on the basis of decision and insight.

on the other hand, the assimilation of this practice with what happens in the real world would be an answer to the other principle – ‘engagement’. this would show us the benefit of the projects and makes us to believe that the assignment is a meaningful and creditable activity.

although the above mentioned principles were successful, the ‘relation’ principle seems to be forgotten.  paying attention to this principle not only increases the quality of training, but also would be a basic and inseparable specification due to the nature of the architecture process. the individual activity of students on their personal projects and ignoring team working nature of the formation and social role of architectural works is a great problem of the current methods of architecture training.

Alireza Mostaghni




Alireza mostaghni


Associate Professor

Architecture & Urban Planning Faculty

University of Art, Tehran, Iran

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manoocher moazzami


Assistant Professor

Architecture & Urban Planning Faculty

University of Art, Tehran, Iran