Architects, like all trained professionals, need to undergo a lengthy and rigorous course of university study.  For architects, this is usually a 5- or 6-year course.

Even though architectural graduates do this, many are considered ‘green’ and need further considerable time doing ‘in-the-field’ work experience with an architectural practice before they are considered competent.

This situation may be more applicable to architectural students doing a full-time university course, as opposed to those doing a part-time course where part of the course requirement is maybe 4 years minimum working with an architectural practice before they graduate, but the principles explained here would apply to both types of students.

So, it can be up to 8 or 9 years before many graduates are competent enough to be left more or less alone to do their job.  Is this too much time to get to professional competency and if so, what can be done to lessen the time?

One way may be what can be called the drip-feed approach to teaching.  What is the drip-feed approach?

Drip-feed is presenting information to students in small byte sized pieces, in a steady consistent but unrushed flow over the entire duration of the university degree, starting at day one.

Most aspects of architecture can be taught this way, especially the more practical things, such as construction, documentation, specifications, CAD and BIM, consultants, contracts, contract administration, product selection, law and regulations, sustainability, and much more.

Each of these subjects could form like a subject category silo containing all the information the student needs on that subject until graduation.  The feed of information would start at the bottom of each subject, with simple elementary principles including terminology, to introduce the subject to the student.  These basic principles would be repeated for the duration of the university course but with a little more detail continuously added over time.

Even some fundamentals of design could be included in the drip-feed method, including client/architect agreements, formulating room data sheets, design process/stages, risk, client relationship management, etc.

The drip-feed approach to leaning is like leaving a hose in the garden run on low-flow for a long time, no water washes off wasted, and with time it soaks in deep.

The drip-feed approach would also see reduced need for, or elimination of, testing.  Testing is usually needed to see what volume of information that is poured into student’s mind is retained.  Like the hose in the garden, if it runs too fast there will be a lot of run-off.  Students can only absorb so much.  Testing can be likened to needing to dig a hole in the garden to see how deep the rush of water has penetrated.  Usually, it does not go in too deep.

Trying to learn huge amounts of information quickly by force, also causes stress and unhappiness, often resulting in minimal and short-lived memory retention.  The stress is compounded also by the actual testing process.

With drip-feed, testing would largely be unnecessary, replaced simply by record of attendance.  When subject matter is presented in simple terms, is seen by students as being relevant, and is an interesting topic supported by stories (which are a fun and excellent way to learn), students will remember.

And the increased memory retention that comes from learning slowly and steadily this way, students will have the information readily accessible in their mind when they start their professional life.

Drip-feed also needs to be augmented by instruction from part-time lecturers who are current practicing architects.  As well as learning great content, this would give students a taste of what life is like in an architectural practice.

Drip-feed can be used to teach students other topics which they should be aware of as professionals, such as business, finance, economics, national and international affairs, and much more.  These subjects could be, like the architectural subjects, run for the duration of the course but would not need to go so deep as the architectural subjects.

Drip-feed can be applied also to subjects that need hands-on participation for learning, such as design, although perhaps in a slightly different format which takes into account the critical aspect of participation with this type of learning.

The drip-feed method when implemented would force some radical structural changes to a university architectural course.  There would be, of course, some opposition from teaching staff who may be set in their ways.  For others with a more flexible outlook though, the benefits of this type of learning are hard to ignore.