This virtual conference seeks to engage education professionals in debate and best practice sharing with educators in the fields of art, design and social science disciplines. The backdrop to the event is the varied interpretations of teaching as it relates to research. This is often contested, with definitions of ‘academic research’ often excluding analysis, experiment, knowledge transfer and critical debate stimulated in the classroom, studio or lab.
Educationalists however, routinely define the classroom as a ‘laboratory’ and use it to monitor how space influences learning. In architecture, landscape and urban design, however, the idea of a ‘design studio’ as a vehicle for research in and of itself is gaining traction. In construction and engineering schools the notion of problem based curricula is common place, with student initiatives such as the Solar Decathlon turning learning into experiment by default.
Programs of sociology and human geography routinely collect data on communities and neighbourhood initiatives as part of classroom exercises. Public health educators engage in critiques of urban infrastructure in developing arguments around issues like the healthy city. The growing number of urban economics professors worldwide, debate and explore the finance of housing, real estate and city infrastructures, forging new theories of city finance in the process.
Teachers of art and social history reconsider and critique the cultural and social movements of cities in the very act of explaining them. In exploring the city as both dynamic and time-place bound in the classroom, cultural theorists engage in the very act of defining it as such for a new generation of researchers in the field. How we represent the city and its communities is not only a theme in media and communication studies, it is a practice we study.
What then, of the distinction between research and teaching as it manifests itself in disciplines that relate to the life and design of the built environments of our towns and cities?