Why I attend
architecture lectures
Sarah Nicholas
Subject Librarian (Architecture), Cardiff University
ARCLIB 2013 Confere...
architecture
since 1940
issues in
contemporary
architecture
cities and landscapes
image from cover of WSA Year 1 Dublin St...
for formally acknowledged
professional
development
expanding my architectural knowledge to
better integrate within the Sch...
to improve my collection
management
and development efforts
image by Sarah Nicholas
to gain insight into the
student experience
image by Sarah Nicholas
for engagement
with academic staff
image by Sarah Nicholas
for student
engagement
image by Sarah Nicholas
for personal
development
images by Sarah Nicholas
Why I attend
architecture lectures
Sarah Nicholas
Subject Librarian (Architecture), Cardiff University
ARCLIB 2013 Confere...
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ARCLIB 2013 Conference: Teach Meet: Why I Attend Architecture Lectures

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6 minute presentation to the Architecture Librarians' Group conference in York Thursday 11th July 2013.

Published in: Education, News & Politics
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  • No fancy title here. Just an honest and quick romp through why I attend some architecture lectures. I’ve no intent to suggest this is something anyone else should be doing, but I am curious as to whether anyone is and, if so, whether their experiences differ.
  • I’ve attended three modules thus far over a period of three academic years, focussing on non-technical modules. “Architecture since 1940” is a first year module. Having introduced an assessed annotated and critical bibliography exercise, preceding students’ first essay submission, into this module in 2008, I felt fairly strongly that some background knowledge to what I was marking was vital. I needed to know that when students justified a choice of source material in their bibliography because it analysed “an iconic building”, this was indeed the case. I’d assumed I would stop attending lectures having completed attendance at this module, but I enjoyed the lectures so much I’ve continued.“Issues in Contemporary Architecture” is a third year module. I chose this because I felt it would be easy to digest the broad, sometimes multi-disciplinary, nature of the subjects it covers. And it was. It was fascinating. I remember one lecture on the psychology of architecture with particular enthusiasm. And I came to such lectures with a refreshingly equivalent level of knowledge in comparison to the students.“Cities and Landscapes” is a second year module which starts the process of contextualising the build. It’s a module which makes heavy demands on the library, which is why I chose to sit in on this module. It turned out to be interesting, too.
  • Line management support has been crucial to my being able to attend lectures. And is the only reason why I was unable to do so prior to 2010, despite my argument that it would facilitate my marking module work.Having my attendance written into appraisal formalised the process. My appraisal acknowledged my desire to expand my architectural knowledge “to better integrate within the School and understand and meet its needs”. After two years of attending lectures, my 2013 appraisal read that I would continue doing so “until lectures in all non-technical modules have been attended”. This legitimises my lecture attendance, though I’m fairly sure colleagues continue to see it as a something fun, without direct application to my role.I’m very much assisted by the fact I work part time. All my attendance is in my own time. My 2010 appraisal document notes “If [lectures] take place in her current working hours, provided they do not clash with her work commitments, Sarah will adjust her working hours in order to attend.” I can’t imagine that attendance would be permissible, were it having to be during my paid working hours.Attendance has encouraged me to diversify in my choice of professional development. In 11/12 I attended an introduction to Building Regulations day at BSRIA, which I would never have thought to do beforehand, but which was highly relevant and interesting. I also joined the undergraduate year 2 students for a HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) visit, assisted at the 2011 Royal Society of Architects in Wales annual conference and participated in some Twentieth Century Society architectural events.I feel all of this has contributed to my better understanding what the School needs from its Library.A more obvious benefit to my professional development has been the opportunity to observe others teaching. Though Cardiff University Libraries operates a peer review process for teaching, I’ve valued highly the chance to see lecturers at work, to observe how they present information (usually with little text and lots of images) and see how informal the lecture process often its. This has directly impacted on my own teaching, as I’ve attempted to teach in a style more compatible with the School’s.
  • I discovered just how much reading material is recommended during lectures and is supplemental to the module reading list. It’s a lot. Reading lists were provided as handouts or slides for almost every lecture. These multi-page documents in the photograph are notes, all including recommended reading not listed elsewhere, for the first year “Architecture since 1940” module. We may all suspect this happens, but I now have confirmation. Only external lecturers tended to recommend material not already available in the library, so these lists are not excessively problematic, except where they affect demand for single copies of texts.Furthermore, in the case of the “Cities and Landscapes” module, which has an unusually extensive reading list, attending the lectures gave me a better appreciation of how the sheer breadth of knowledge imparted has necessitated this extensive reading list. It also helped me understand the odd fluctuations in student demands for texts, as interim assessed work was submitted in small groups. I’d only had a passing appreciation of this beforehand.
  • As already implied, from the teaching I’ve observed, I’ve also gained some insight into how architecture students learn. This insight led to some dalliance with Performance Based Learning techniques (and certainly avoiding guiding their activities too much), to even greater efforts to engage the students in conversation during workshops, as I’ve come to appreciate the informality of the teaching experience to which they’re accustomed, and to a better appreciation of the volume of workload borne by the students. And hearing some of the subject-specific language they encounter, I’ve tried to employ that where feasible, to suggest a synergy between School and Library, and, subsequent relevance of what I’m teaching.
  • Attendance at lectures often results in an improved relationship with academics. I’ve had one lecturer who repeatedly requested my feedback on the content and teaching style of the module, which I duly provided as far as I felt able. (This picture is an example of the notes I made during the lectures… the right hand side is the lecture content, the left hand side, my reflections on the teaching, some of it rather mundane, as here.)Juliet “Great to have feedback Sarah...I do sometimes feel like I am speaking into the void.It is all rather exciting this history thing isn't it? Many, many thanks. And if you can see anything that I could improve please let me know.”Some of my feedback, which mentions York, “Today's lecture on the medieval has been similarly affecting. It seems I've been blindly wandering about various cities, York, in particular, springs to mind, unaware of the layers beneath. […] I'd never once considered the gates into a town to have any inherent meaning, drawn from the Christian faith, I'd only ever thought of them at defensible structures. I'd never given a moment's thought to the geometry, the order, of a cathedral emphasising the sacred, in stark contrast to the disordered streets of the mortal.”And some more, “I also enjoyed that the students were given some indication of the value of statistics as a research tool... It's not often that I see them presented with league tables or census data, though I feel it could serve to inform them of community needs where they are building.”And face to face have mentioned repeatedly their enthusiasm for their subjects, which is always evident. Expressing an interest in their enthusiasm can only reap rewards.Quite enlightening has been how some academics suffer similar anxieties to myself about the relevance/interest/style of delivery of their material. That some have been willing to share these anxieties points to my claims of an improved relationship.
  • Attending lectures increased my visibility amongst students. Most were surprisingly unquestioning that I should be attending lectures, though the first years did initially assume I would be sitting exams with them.I’m fairly sure my attendance at first year lectures signalled enough of an interest in architecture that I was invited to accompany the first year undergraduates on their week-long study visit to Dublin in March 2011. This was an excellent opportunity to further engage with students, to discover a little better how they were taught, how they learned, what motivated their architectural interest (and often passion) and who they were. It also resulted in me being decidedly more approachable, as students had witnessed me daily, in a relaxed environment.
  • And, finally, I attend architecture lectures because I enjoy it.I’m learning about buildings. Yes, marvel at my genius scribble of a well-known structure! And I’m visiting places with fresh eyes. This is a photograph from a very recent visit to Stourhead Gardens, where I bored a friend to distraction with tales of the symbolism of the placement of ornament.
  • So… Do you see any of these reasons for my attending architecture lectures as valid? Is this something you do? Could do? Share with me your experiences!
  • ARCLIB 2013 Conference: Teach Meet: Why I Attend Architecture Lectures

    1. 1. Why I attend architecture lectures Sarah Nicholas Subject Librarian (Architecture), Cardiff University ARCLIB 2013 Conference, York, 11 July 2013
    2. 2. architecture since 1940 issues in contemporary architecture cities and landscapes image from cover of WSA Year 1 Dublin Study Visit booklet, 2011
    3. 3. for formally acknowledged professional development expanding my architectural knowledge to better integrate within the School and understand and meet its needs teaching observation image from Powerpoint
    4. 4. to improve my collection management and development efforts image by Sarah Nicholas
    5. 5. to gain insight into the student experience image by Sarah Nicholas
    6. 6. for engagement with academic staff image by Sarah Nicholas
    7. 7. for student engagement image by Sarah Nicholas
    8. 8. for personal development images by Sarah Nicholas
    9. 9. Why I attend architecture lectures Sarah Nicholas Subject Librarian (Architecture), Cardiff University ARCLIB 2013 Conference, York, 11 July 2013
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