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Independent Student Design Competitions And The Assessment Dilemma

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Teaching Innovation in Architectural Engineering II

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

12.880.1 - 12.880.14



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Paper Authors


Joseph Betz State University of New York

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JOSEPH A. BETZ is Professor of Architecture at the State University of New York College of Technology at Farmingdale and a licensed architect. He is currently the Chair of the Architectural Engineering Division for ASEE. He received his undergraduate and professional degrees in architecture from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and his post-professional degree in architecture from Columbia University. He is a recipient of the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Independent Student Design Competitions and the Assessment Dilemma

Abstract One of the most difficult assessment problems for faculty is student design competitions where only one or maybe two teams participate for independent study. Students are excited and focused on the possibility of winning. The faculty is usually concerned with process and assessment in the context of a project and program not of their design. The issues are multiplied when you combine the problems of team assessment with a small sample pool of participants. This paper presents a case study in process and assessment for a single team of four independent study students that entered the 2005-2006 Airport Security Circulation International Student Design Competition by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture. Team dynamics and potential pitfalls are discussed. This paper should have broad appeal for faculty looking to go beyond the traditional design studio and engage students in meaningful independent study.

Introduction National design competitions always produce excitement and the chance for students to test their design ability in a more worldly, although structured academic setting. There are two important issues facing the mentoring faculty: (1) what exactly does one assess and, (2) how does one assess it? The first question of what to assess, is related to the quality of the design process used. Since faculty typically establish the design process or work plan for students, by default, they set the framework for what to assess. The second question of how to assess is more problematic and represents the very nature of the dilemma. This is because design assessment is based on several factors including: past experience with this type of problem, comparing several projects in context and measuring particular aspects of performance. All of these factors are usually very limited or unknown in independent student design competitions where only one solution is produced. This paper will offer a case study on these two important issues of what and how to assess from the experience of competing in an independent student design competition. It will map out a conceptual process, outline a work plan and challenge the reader about the dilemmas faced with assessment.

Mapping out a successful design process to solve a complex and unfamiliar architectural design competition program is difficult. This is because architectural design remains predominantly a craft oriented process. It relies heavily on experience, subjective decision making, multivariable selection, taste, ability, perspective and balance. Most of the architectural theory throughout history has struggled with this issue of getting this decision making process right; what and how much do we consider in the design process.[1]

Architectural design can be seen in terms of defining the means and ends to problem solving. The means is loosely defined as a dynamic and creative sequence of problem interpretation, initial starting strategies, contextual understanding, development, continual assessment and refinement. The ends are the correct solutions to the problem. The challenge is to try to design a means process that will result in a successful but yet unknown ends.[2] Since this is a learning activity for students, the means is not the shortest path but rather one the emphasizes a qualitative and comprehensive design experience.

Betz, J. (2007, June), Independent Student Design Competitions And The Assessment Dilemma Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1579

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