From Silos to Synergies: Creating Scaffolding Opportunities for Increased Student Learning

Presented by: Dr. Lisa Waxman, Steve Webber, Jill Pable, Amy Huber

The Problem The challenge for interior design educators is to develop innovative projects that enhance student learning while meeting standards established by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA, 2016). Kolb, Boyatzis, and Mainemelis (2001) review a variety of learning styles that distinguish between how people think, solve problems, and recall information. These styles include: Concrete Experience (CE), Reflective Observation (RO), Abstract Conceptualization (AC) or Active Experimentation (AE). Instructors need to consider how students learn and include a variety of instructional strategies (Ankerson & Pable, 2008). Bringing faculty with diverse teaching strategies together on one multifaceted project can accommodate a variety of learning styles. The Strategy This abstract presents a positive outcome that was achieved by an interior design program to break down the walls between classes and provide opportunities for students to directly apply theories and concepts to studio, sustainability, lighting, and computer-aided design classes—all on one project and with a variety of teaching approaches. The third-year workplace studio was positioned at the center of this curriculum design with the major office project serving as the repository for applying learning from the other classes. To bring the four courses together, faculty committed to spending additional time in planning the course schedules, supporting key milestones during the semester, and engaging in the critique process. The classes supported each other in the following ways: Studio: The workplace design studio utilizes a specific location each semester with the express purpose to stitch students’ interior projects into the urban fabric with particular attention on outdoor amenities, mass transit, and access to daylight and views. In combination with a unique client assignment for each student, the location data serves to produce a variety of project outcomes diverse in how they apply sustainable practices and lighting design throughout the design. Sustainability: The sustainability class syncs with the studio class in that students take what they are learning about LEED and sustainability and apply it to the studio project. Students must achieve a Gold LEED certification on the project. Deliverables include a fully developed LEED notebook with all points documented, as well as a visual project calling out all of the sustainable features on the project. Lighting: Students engage in a series of exercises and projects that support the studio workplace project. They learn about architectural lighting techniques by creating a ‘shoebox’ vignette with actual lighting that mocks up a feature within the office design, such a as a reception desk with feature wall or similar element. As the office plan emerges, students create light map diagrams to help develop their daylighting and interior lighting to suit the project’s goals. The students develop specifications, reflected ceiling plans and perform lighting calculations for quantity and placement. Advanced Computer-Aided Design: The first project focuses on the design and modeling of a custom light fixture for the studio client. Students load their light fixtures into a file that has been modeled to match the design of a conference room within their studio space. The students complete photo realistic renderings and luminance maps in order to estimate the light output of the fixture. The Outcome This collaborative project has been in place for three years and continues to evolve. Students are able to see how their learning can be applied in an interior through lighting calculations, illumination maps, LEED documentation, and the final visual communication of the project. Faculty members note greater retention of knowledge, more attention to detail, and greater ease in integrating lighting and sustainability than in the past.


  • Ankerson, K. & Pable, J. (2008). Interior design: Practical strategies for teaching and learning. New York: Fairchild Books.
  • Council for Interior Design Accreditation, Accreditation Standards 2017. Retrieved from
  • Kolb, D., Boyatzis, R. & Mainemelis, C. (2001). Experiential learning theory: Previous research and new directions. In R. Sternberg & L. Zhang (Eds.), Perspectives on Thinking, Learning, and Cognitive Styles (pp. 227-247). New York: Routledge
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