Diversity and Inclusion in the Design Studio

aerial view of three people at a desk looking at a set of construction drawings. Diversity and Inclusion Design Studio.We live in a complex and fast-changing world – the pandemic has told us that. Designers have to keep up and that means design educators also need to keep up. But it’s not just content that matters, it’s the way it’s taught in the design studio. So, universal design meets universal design for learning. Understanding indigenous ways of knowing is just one aspect of diversity and inclusion for teachers and students. A book chapter explains.

Experiential learning is a popular way for students to practice skills and apply knowledge. In their book chapter, Sandra Abegglen and Fabian Neuhouse discuss their interdisciplinary design studio course. Bringing together planning and architecture students is not new. However, bringing them together with a traditional Knowledge Keeper is different. This makes it cross-cultural as well. 

The authors describe the setting for the students, the methods and the task scenario. The intention of the course was to engage with Indigenous ways of knowing and living. In this way students could develop proposals that pay respect to traditional stewards of the land. Considerations for accessibility and inclusion were also part of the task. 

Lessons Learned

At the end of the chapter, the authors offer their reflections. 

“As instructors and researchers, we aim to enrich the quality and breadth of learning for our students. We also strive to create learning experiences that meet the demands for future professional practice. … Students learned a lot about Indigenous culture and cross-cultural approaches to design through the inputs of Hal Eagletail, Tsuut’ina Elders and Indigenous design professionals. They learned to work with others, and to appreciate different views and approaches. At the same time, through their projects, they explored what it means to develop ‘inclusive’ design proposals.”

“The outcomes demonstrate that a cross cultural approach in both course instruction and course content supports an inclusive practice. It is a setting that all learners can access and participate in meaningfully, modeling the idea of UDL and projecting it through studio practice onto the work produced by students.”

In our studios, Universal Design was implied and fostered through UDL practice, challenging the traditional one-size-fits-all model. However, for this approach to be successful, instructors need to actively support and foster collaboration and, especially online, allow enough time for a meaningful exchange.”

The title of the book chapter is, Diversity and Inclusion in the Design Studio (chapter 4). It’s open access.

The title of the book is, Incorporating Universal Design for Learning in Disciplinary Concepts in Higher Education Guide. You are likely to find other chapters of interest. 


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