How Do Architects Think? Learning Styles and Architectural Education
journal article
Architecture is a complex process involving the divergent resolution of a multitude of factors- social, ecological, technical, economic, functional, ethical and aesthetic. Despite this diversity all architectural problem solving processes share one common factor- they must be resolved spatially. This paper sets out to explore how best to develop these spatial thinking skills in young architects through addressing their learning styles in education. The primary hypothesis tested is twofold. First-using the Solomon & Felder (2007) definition of learning styles and their Index of Learning Styles Questionnaire the average profile of a study group from the freshmen and sophomore architectural student body at the Architectural Engineering Program of the American University in Cairo is mapped and compared to that of a control group from the general population of the university from a cross-section of majors. Secondly, using the Spatial Ability test by Newton & Bristoll (2009), the spatial ability of both the control and study groups are measured and compared. The analysis of these results tests the assumption that the majority of architectural students will be visual, rather than verbal; and active, rather than reflective, learners; as well as exhibiting higher spatial abilities, as compared to the control group.

The performance of students in these tests are then correlated against their learning styles profile using the following sets- low spatial ability against both reflective and verbal learning; moderate spatial ability against neutral learning styles; and high spatial ability against both active and visual learning. The results show a particular corroboration between high spatial ability and active learning in the entire group of students- both study, and control- as well as a strong corroboration between high spatial ability and visual learning- with a higher correlation in architecture students, reaching 100% in some classes. It is hoped that by understanding how our students think and learn, rather than operating on assumptions, we can provide more responsive and customized modes of learning and teaching in our studios.
Mostafa, Magda and Mostafa, Hoda. "How Do Architects Think? Learning Styles and Architectural Education," in ArchNet-IJAR: International Journal of Architectural Research, vol. 4, issues 2/3 (2010).
Parent Publications
Magda Mostafa and Hoda Mostafa
architectural design
architectural education
contemporary architecture
professional practice
research in architecture