Problem Based Learning (PBL) has been a key feature of professional training related to the built environment for decades. Students have been encouraged to learn through the exploration of research problems by working either independently or in small self-directed teams. The basis for using this pedagogical approach in visual arts and architecture has been to encourage students to discover the gaps in their own knowledge and facilitate a thorough look at the issues, concepts and principles associated with any problem. As a result of this teaching method, students become more involved in, and responsible for, their own learning.
The use of PBL methods is the foundation upon which VABE studio classes are based. In the process of developing particular competencies through case projects, VABE students begin to acquire and hone skills that are essential for them to thrive as effective designers. They learn what discipline-based tools are needed to solve the problems they face. The role of the designer is understood to be one of ‘creative problem-solver’ (Bennett, 1977) - someone who is engaged in the process of problem recognition, information gathering, generation of alternative solutions, incubation, solution selection, verification, and evaluation. The VABE problem solver delicately balances between practice, theory, skills and judgment.
Based on VABE student Megan Corchis’ schematic drawings, the first year Architectural Design class teams up to create a lightweight temporary relief shelter that can be easily shipped, assembled, and disassembled.