Cognitive Style and Architectural Education

Andrew Roberts,  Cardiff University,  UK

This paper describes the initial stages of research looking at the cognitive styles of architecture students to ascertain whether these relate to performance in architectural design related exercises. The research also considers whether architectural education might change students cognitive style as they develop new abilities. Whilst Riding argues that cognitive style should remain constant, he admits that there is as yet little evidence to support that.

The education of an architect, is a complex process which encourages students to develop new ways of seeing, thinking and doing. Research has attempted to demonstrate that the most successful architecture students are those that learn to approach the subject in a holistic manner, where a number of key issues related to the design of buildings are addressed simultaneously. This differs somewhat from the engineer, who is often seen to approach aspects of design in a more sequential manner. (Lawson).  Similarly, as architecture is by nature, progressed through graphical means, one  would expect students to possess particular abilities to visualise, which could be related to Riding’s ‘Imager – Verbaliser’ dimension. Most architecture students enter higher education with little experience of architecture as a discipline, and therefore a large part of architectural education is concerned with the development of new cognitive abilities.

An entire cohort of incoming architecture students used Riding’s CSA to measure cognitive style in the first week of arriving at university, and the results analysed to see if any particular styles were more prevalent than others. (a possible factor related to the admissions process). The cohort was then re-tested a year later. The results from the second test were statistically significantly different from the first, indicating either a change in cognitive style amongst the student, or a lack of test reliability.

The students’ cognitive styles were also tested for correlation with the end of year mark for design work. Results showed negligible correlation on the Verbal – Imager dimension, and a weak correlation on the Wholist- Analytic dimension. Closer examination of the results showed that a stronger correlation with the Wholist-Analytic dimension existed for those students whose cognitive style had remained reasonable constant between the two tests.

Return to Abstracts Index