SoA Policy on Studio Culture
TO: Architecture Faculty
FROM: Robert Miller, Professor, Director, School of Architecture
This Director’s Policy on Studio Culture is intended to support Studio Culture Policy adopted by the students and Faculty, and support a healthy, constructive environment that supports students in doing their best work.
The issues particular to this policy may be summarized as follows:
NATURE OF WORK: The practice of quality architecture is more akin to a marathon than a sprint. High quality, in-depth work is produced by iterative production conducted over a long period of time, rather than through short, fleeting bursts of inspired (or panicked) effort.
IMPORTANCE OF HEALTH: Contrary to the myths, staying up all night is, not only bad for health, but inefficient. Efficiency and productivity during and after an all-nighter drop markedly. It should not be a badge of honor to stay up for extended periods. For both health and higher productivity, students should start charretting earlier, getting a minimum of four hours sleep every night, rather than put off the push and stay-up continuously at the end.
TIME MANAGEMENT + DISCIPLINE: By allowing, or tacitly encouraging, students to stay up right before a due-date is to fail to teach time management and the discipline required for in-depth work. Establishing healthy and effective work habits requires that we teach a more rigorous and disciplined work method.
MANDATE OF PRESENTATION: A proper presentation holds the presenter responsible for a logical, clear, compelling overview of the work, which allows critics to understand its key issues as well as the designer’s particular approach and development. Only by being well prepared and rested for presentations can students optimize learning.
RESPONSIBILITIES TO PEERS: A proper studio culture will hold the non-presenting students responsible for, not only learning from and participating in the review of the whole studio, but for attending in support of each studio member.
FAIRNESS: The introduction of Milestones in both accredited degrees has provided a backstop that insures our students are actually acquiring the skills and knowledge that we, as an accredited program, certify them to have upon graduation. This, however, puts more pressure on the Faculty to give grades that truly assess each student’s development, not just in that studio, but across the sequence. We must grade to a standard of C as minimum competence with studio benchmarks set for progress across the curriculum.
In support of this agenda, the following six practices will be expected of all studio faculty:
All studios will have a minimum of four graded products in a semester, due: 1. in the early weeks of the term, 2. before the Drop Date (around the first quarter), 3. at mid-term, and 4. at the conclusion of the term.
This is a minimum standard; faculty are encouraged to give frequent and regular evaluations to keep students officially abreast of their progress so they can adjust performance and try to earn the grade they desire.
Grade 1: Regardless of our common School-wide grading standard, students need to know, early in the semester, the teacher’s interpretation of that standard. The first graded component of a course should not carry a lot of weight but should make the students aware of the teacher’s value system—without leniency or benefit of the doubt.
Grade 2: Students have a right to know how they are doing in a course by Drop Date: the last day to drop without receiving a grade. Drop Date is usually in the fourth week of the term and is listed in the Registrar’s calendar: http://www.registrar.arizona.edu/schedules/dates.htm
Grade 3: Half-way through the course, students deserve again to know their status.
By provide regular grades in the first half of a semester, we will not only give students the feedback they need to adjust performance in time to impact the course grade, we will hopefully force more production into the first half of the semester and teach students to
a) pace production evenly over the entire term,
b) tackle tough issues early, and
c) work in an iterative manner.
It will also increase fairness, by evaluating students early and regularly, thus reducing the number of grade appeals.
Studio professors will collect projects at least 12 hours prior to the start of a review; in year-levels with multiple related studios, Studio Coordinators will set the collection deadline so that all students are subject to the same deadline.
To “collect” work will mean to get documentation and disallow further changes/additions from what will be presented at the review. This will require the collection of the actual work that is posted, or the documentation of in-progress work (shots of models and boards and the collection of digital files that will allow verification of what is posted for the review).
By setting and enforcing an advance submittal time, we will teach students that presentation is an important aspect of conducting the work. Obviously, students will be able to continue working after advance submittal, if they so choose, but this additional work must not allowed to be shown until subsequent reviews: the point is for students to rest and prepare for presentation.
Each studio will have a minimum of two rehearsed presentations, one of which must be the final. 2nd and 3rd year studios will video at least one of these presentations and conduct a post-presentation review.
A “rehearsed” presentation shall involve a pre-review critique with the professor, will set a time limit for the presentation, and will entail two components:
GRAPHIC: A submittal and subsequent critique of how the graphic presentation will, in a logical and comprehensive manner, guide the reviewers through the key issues as well as the project’s particular response.
ORAL: A rehearsal of the oral presentation before the professor.
By requiring students to prepare for and practice their presentations, we will teach students to think about and explain their work in a thoughtful and articulate manner. By setting a time limit for the presentation, they will learn to communicate responsibly and efficiently.
The reason for filming the reviews at 2nd and 3rd year is a) to let students experience how they come across to others, and b) to build a presentation culture prior to the upper levels.
If we do a good job in the early years, the structured requirements won’t be needed in upper-level studios because a strong presentation culture will have taken hold.
Studio members will attend their peer’s presentations. Each student will be assigned a partner charged with a) giving time and presentation cues, and b) taking notes.
By establishing partnerships, we will get students invested in their peers’ work and encourage them to collaborate. By having a non- presenter keep notes, the presenting student can focus on an active interchange with the critics, give presentation signals (“make eye contact,” “SLOW DOWN,” “speak more clearly”) and will have notes on the critique for later reflection.
All studios should include “Presentation” as a graded component for the semester, covering both graphic and oral aspects, as well as taking into account student attendance and participation in the review of peers.
By making presentation a graded component, students and faculty members will be forced to seriously engage in oral and graphic presentations.
Every studio with multiple sections will, at the discretion of the Studio Coordinator, either confer or conduct shared grading on 50% of the studio grades.
By having multiple teachers review and compare grade benchmarks, if not actually team-grade, we will have greater equity across sections and a much better chance of accurately assessing progress toward Milestone reviews and graduation.
STUDIO COORDINATOR DUTIES
To support the students and faculty in a strong studio culture, Studio Coordinators will:
- Have studio faculty confer or conduct shared grading on 50% of the studio grades.
- Participate in all Curricula Walk-Throughs in which their studio is represented, collaborating to set performance benchmarks and learning objectives that will get students to the Milestones and Graduation with the requisite skills.
- Monitor the 12-hour advance deadline submittals, setting common deadlines across sections and verifying that work is being checked for conformance with the policy.
- Schedule with the required Presentation Rehearsals for all sections and verify that they are occurring in a serious and meaningful way.
- Encourage the participation of all students in the critique and discussion of each project; verify that all students are attending; and make sure that the partnership program is being implemented in all sections.
- Check that syllabi include the above requirements, including a graded criterion for presentation.
- Report to me lack of conformance to this policy by faculty, which will be accounted for in that faculty member’s APR.
E N D O F M E M O R A N D U M