What is ‘learner autonomy’? – A manifesto for the autonomous learner in architectural education

1/ …Autonomous action in any field is underpinned by the ability to ‘pick and choose’; in the case of architectural education, this choice is between a number of approaches, methodologies, techniques and opinions. In doing so, the autonomous learner must be able to make an informed choice. So;

2/ …being able to choose wisely becomes important. Knowing what contributes to a good decision is fundamental to autonomy, as is;

3/ …having the courage to act. It can be hard to simultaneously learn and know that you’re right (in fact, or in process). Fundamental, in turn, to this is the idea that;

4/ …there is no clear cut ‘right’ or ‘wrong’;

5/ …Valuing both prior experience and personal opinion (providing it is informed and critical) is key to autonomy. Having been conceived and nurtured by individuals;

6/ …‘Position’ and ‘Critique’ are vehicles by which understanding (and therefore learning) are furthered through discussion amongst a group. Therefore the idea of;

7/ …inter-dependency, as opposed to independency, is crucial. The autonomous learner must have an understanding of the contribution they can make towards, and their obligation to, a wider whole, in terms of;

8/ …synthesizing knowledge from mere information, and;

9/ …safeguarding well-being; an understanding how things relate in an ecological sense, personally and socially, underpins successful autonomous learning;

10/ …Essentially, autonomous learning is being able to act confidently and independently, alongside, rather than instead of, directed study.

Therefore, an innovation that would support learner autonomy within the Sheffield School of Architecture would be something that;

1/ …empowered students to be happily critical of self and each other, individually or amongst groups, with or without a ‘tutor’.

2/ …served as a tool for reflection upon the practices of self or school (such as ARC571).

3/ …facilitated the intelligent archival, retrieval and promotion of shared and embodied knowledge within a ‘school’.

The Manifesto itself reflects some aspects of our shared reflections on architectural education as a whole (i.e. the idea that it is important to lean that there is no clear ‘right’ or ‘wrong’). I would argue that in many respects, learner autonomy can be considered as synonymous with a wider idea of architectural education, as its practice is so key to the survival of the process! The Manifesto is a useful tool to both frame and focus intent within a field, and therefore appropriate at this point in our studies for ARC571. The act of its preparation is a tool for thinking, if nothing else.



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