SEED Methodology as a Standard of Practice for Service-Learning

Presented by: Greta M. Buehrle

CIDA Standard 7 requires interior design(ID) programs to show evidence of students understanding the value and role of public and community service within ID. Typically, this standard is achieved via a service-learning experience within the curriculum. It is widely acknowledged that service-learning in higher education is decidedly beneficial not only to the student participants but the faculty, university at large, and community partners (Eyler & Gyles, 1999; Sigmon, 1994). Zollinger et al (2009) has suggested a framework for integrating and establishing successful service-learning experiences. While this framework is helpful as a guide for establishing whether a project qualifies as a service-learning experience, it does not provide a standard of practice for implementation. This presentation expresses the need for a standard of practice for service-learning in ID, proposes that such a standard may already exist in SEED Methodology, and explores the use of the method through a case study. The SEED (Social, Economic, Environmental Design) Network has grown out of a movement in architecture toward a profession of public interest design (PID). The Network consists of individual members dedicated to the expansion of design for the public good, sharing case studies and best practices to create a community of knowledge. The SEED Methodology develops the mission and foundational principles into nine action-oriented steps: • Step 1: Engaging Community Participation • Step 2: Identifying Critical Issues • Step 3: Defining Goals • Step 4: Research and Data Collection • Step 5: Setting Benchmarks • Step 6: Defining Performance Measurement • Step 7: Developing a Timeline • Step 8: Documenting and Reporting Results • Step 9: Evaluation and Reflection (Abendroth & Bell, 2015) This presentation will describe a case study in which the author used the SEED Methodology to guide students in a project to design a 32,000 SF assistance center for a local nonprofit. Steps 1-3 of the SEED Methodology were completed by the professor and the nonprofit prior to the beginning of the course. First, students were introduced to SEED methodology and case studies in PID. Research and Data Collection took place through a community charrette that included future assistance center tenants, staff, local community leaders, and all 120 of the university’s ID students and faculty. The students led focus groups with participants regarding areas within the center. In the afternoon the students led teams of their ID student peers to create schematic design ideas for each of these areas. This was presented back to the community at the end of the day for clarity and feedback. Next, the students worked through Steps 5-9, finalized their schematic design, compiled their work into a presentation booklet for the nonprofit to use for fundraising and promotion, and gave a design presentation to the nonprofit’s Board of Directors. The project was highly successful. The students learned a great deal about working with a client and engaging a larger community. Of particular importance was reflection from the students about the project opening their eyes to ways in which ID can directly influence, engage, and change a community. Feedback from the community supports the utilization of the SEED Methodology as a standard of practice. Many remarked on the students’ professionalism, ability to listen, and seeing the students as true partners in their work and vision. The impact to the community can be seen further in the reaction of the client. The Board of Directors was so impressed with the students’ work that their design has moved forward into production with a local architect. In addition, several of the students were asked to join a Design Committee for the nonprofit so that their voices continue to be an integral part of the building design.


  • Abendroth, L. (n.d.). Mission and Join. Retrieved October 1, 2015, from
  • Abendroth, L., & Bell, B. (2015). Public interest design practice guidebook: SEED methodology, case studies, and critical issues. New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Eyler, J., & Giles, D. (1999). Where’s the learning in service learning? San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Sigmon, Robert L. (1994). Serving to Learn, Learning to Serve. Linking Service with Learning. Council for Independent Colleges Report.
  • Zollinger, S., Guerin, D., Hadjiyanni, T., & Martin, C. (2009). Deconstructing Service-Learning: A Framework for Interior Design. Journal of Interior Design, 34(3), 31-45.