Name of the participant and other supporting staff if relevant

Emma Geoghegan.

Also involved was another lecturer, Paul Kelly.

Name of the module and discipline, level and  year of study and any useful background info

 4th year B Arch students in architecture. Module is called ‘Architecture, Collaboration and Society’ –elective module. CERL project ideas are ‘pitched’ by the lecturer, students vote on which CERL project they would like to do.

Name of community partner and/or any other supporting partners (public or private sector)

Visual in Carlow; Carlow Arts Festival; former employees of the Braun Factory.

The project was done under the banner of a creative arts project called ‘Woman and the Machine’, initiated by Visual and Carlow Arts Festival.

CERL project title(s)

The Braun Archive Engaging with Architecture project

What they changed about their programme/course in relation to CERL

The lecturers built on a 2-year existing partnership with Visual and Carlow County Council, which normally involved working with students in a larger group on their studio module, which they decided they couldn’t run this year due to a huge increase in student numbers. They were asked by Visual and Carlow Arts Festival to look at the history and possibly re-use of an industrial building in the town, re-imagining the public relationship with the building, looking for students to do architectural research, and design an engagement process with the public relating to the building.

So instead of the studio module the lecturers decided to build this project into the Architecture, Collaboration and Society module, and 5 students elected to work on this. Some students on the studio module also fed some work into this project.

 All photos and tables are courtesy of Emma Geoghegan

Tangible info – e.g. module descriptor, learning outcomes, assignments, assessment criteria, …

 Module Learning Outcomes (currently under review)

1 Reflect & evaluate their architectural experience (both academic and professional) and identify their own interests, motivations, strengths and weaknesses.

2 Show that they can work effectively in a peer group demonstrating a range of transferrable skills such as teamwork, negotiation, communication and project management.

3 Describe and discuss an understanding of the critical theories relevant to their elective option

4 Integrate these theories via a rigorous investigation of a defined architectural challenge

S Analyse and articulate the link between their project learning and classroom knowledge

6 Draw conclusions from this study and communicate the findings in an accessible and meaningful manner.

How was it taught:

·        number of students

·        student groupwork or individual,

·        how they worked with the partner,

·        how the project proceeded,

·        any reflection done with students,

·        evaluation or formal assessment of their learning,

·        Could or should we follow up with students?

·        tech used

·        Anything else interesting?

5 students were directly involved in this module.

Weeks 2-4 – seminars on group engagement and processes, how to design engagement?

Weeks 4-8 – mid-section of project – was archival research on the building, engagement with former employees, and drawings

Used a Miro board to support students’ work, and community partners also commented within this platform.

The students attended 2 structured meetings with the festival production team, which was important learning for them about work practices in other disciplines than architecture.

Weeks 8-12 (which became weeks 8-15+ even though modules are normally 12 or 13 weeks long) required them to respond to the outputs of the artistic partners, which was challenging to structure and coordinate as it was less predictable and needed rapid response/turnaround.

 For example, at the last minute they were asked to produce an exhibition, which was a big change (related to lifting of Covid restrictions), even though they had anticipated that there would be changes.

Week 15 (after the end of the module)– visited the site to do the installation.

What did your students learn or how will they benefit?

–        Design of the Community Engagement processes (online and in person)

–        Developing a research strategy and considering the ‘audience’ – how to communicate findings appropriately to different groups.

–        Research into 20th century buildings, use of archives, surveys and identification of sources of information

–        Insight into event planning and management as distinct to typical architectural design processes

–        Importance of considering the relationship that people have with the buildings around them – civic responsibility of architects/architecture

What do you think the benefit was to the partner? Do they have any feedback from the partner?

–        Substantial research on the building which acknowledged the importance of the local town and communities

–        Engagement strategies designed by the students to communicate this information

–        Insights from the students bringing a different perspective to the project

–        Engagement strategies designed by the students are still being used and are building the archive.

How could/will you improve your CERL teaching practice next time?

What did I learn?

–        Teaching Plans for community engaged learning have to be flexible and adaptable

–        Hybrid of online and face to face interactions was beneficial in comparison to other community engaged projects undertaken in the past.

–        Plan for assessment at the start. Factor in elements that you have control over. Consider how the ‘engagement’ element will be assessed and evidenced.

–        Don’t assume goodwill and plan past Week 15! Communicate academic deadlines clearly to partner.

–        Incorporate a reflective piece in all CERL projects. Have done in the past but not in this instance. Reflection is critical – the lecturers didn’t ask the students for formal reflections on this project, given all that was going on, with students being required to work beyond the end of the module to produce the exhibition, but they now wish they had.

Any challenges and how you overcame them


 If CERL is genuinely part of the university’s mission, the university has to consider and recognise the time involved – not just for face-to-face meetings, but for the flexibility needed to be responsive to community partners.

They were disappointed with only 5 students choosing the project, out of 84, but on the plus side those students had chosen to do it and they were brilliant, and 4 or 5 more were tangentially involved too, which was also fundamental to its success.  It should be noted though that the ‘pitch’ to the whole class, for this elective project was not given by the lecturer and therefore the ambitions of the project may not have been clearly described.

The partner trusted the lecturer to deliver, based on past experiences of collaboration with them, which really helped. But you can run a CERL project for the first time with a new partner, that history of collaboration is not a pre-requisite. 

Advice you would give to someone starting a CERL project with students?


–        The needs and demands of the project changed on a weekly basis. Dealing with this within a two hour teaching allocation was challenging. Factor in the administrative load in advance for a project like this.

–        Importance of the partner being aware of the context of the work In an educational setting – briefing is key! Be mindful of projects which have a fixed intractable deadline eg an exhibition opening)

–        The size of the student group matters!

–        Relationship to partner impacts on feasibility and outcomes. Where trust is already established, likelihood of success is improved….

Anything else they want moving forward with their CERL practice?

To contribute to the upcoming review of this module and make sure that it is kept as an option for students, as it’s central to their learning.