Teaching method that confronts students with a disrupted planning or design process

Short description & Objective

BLP (Landscape Planning) has adopted an experiential learning approach where students apply knowledge and skills to real world cases in studio environments. Currently studios train students to perform evidence based planning and design tasks. Students develop plans and designs for a specified case study area according to a given method. The assessment is focused on the quality of the intermediate and final planning and design products. The studios thus provide a challenging and activating learning environment for the application and critical evaluation of substantial scientific knowledge (episteme) and technical knowledge (techne) for planning and design.

What is missing is an activating learning environment for the application and critical evaluation of procedural knowledge, which focuses on values, interests and power relations (phronesis). Students are familiarized with theories on conflict and power and negotiation of conflicting interests and values in among others LUP-24306 Planning Theory and Ethics and LAR-28806 Concepts & Approaches in Landscape Architecture and with concepts and techniques for collecting, presenting and visualising geographical data (including next generation geodata, such as big data, LIDAR, 3D) in GRS-10806 Geo-information Science for Planning and Design. They do not apply this knowledge yet to a real planning or design case in a studio environment. This innovation plan develops a teaching method that confronts students with a disrupted planning or design process. The teaching method will connect the students to stakeholders who are involved in a real world planning or design process and who are willing to share knowledge and experiences with students and explore ways together with students to get the disrupted process running again. Each individual student will be given clear tasks to explore particular aspects of the planning or design process; tasks can comprise of finding appropriate literature, gathering relevant geographical data or collecting practical experiences. The input of all the students together will be used to evaluate the disrupted planning or design process and to find ways collectively to get the process running again. Students should feel personal accountability for the execution of these tasks towards fellow students, teachers and stakeholders (both for the content related part as well as the group process part).

We will use a Phronetic Research approach (PR) combined with the Harvard Case Method teaching approach (HCM). HCM uses a decision-forcing case based on a real event (problem) and with a network of stakeholders (different views). HCM is an effective teaching method to analyse a decision-forcing case with large student groups (up to 100 students). HCM comprises of a limited number of plenary meetings in which students, stakeholders and supervisors are brought together in an interactive classroom (stakeholders might be involved by video conferencing). During a plenary session (part of) a disrupted planning or design process is presented (e.g. by a movie clip, a role play) and evaluated. Before each plenary session students have been given particular tasks to explore particular aspects of the planning or design process. During the plenary sessions students use their insights to evaluate the decision-forcing case. Content supervisors facilitate the plenary session and make sure that all arguments are properly shared. Process supervisors monitor that each individual student actively participates in the discussion and shows accountability for his/her tasks. Students will have E-connections with stakeholders throughout the whole course. A collective geographical knowledge base will be created and constantly expanded related to Phronetic Research. It is important that technical ways can be found that guarantee easy and immediate access to this knowledge base during plenary sessions and preparatory work.

Strong points

The “Real Innovators” innovation project of Eugenie van Heijgen and Martijn Duineveld (2016) has learned that BLP students are most activated by studio education, because in these studios they experience personal responsibility for fellow students and real stakeholders and develop a deeper educational relationship with a teacher.   

HCM stimulates students to be active participants because:

  • The students are exposed to a running real world case, in which they will feel responsibilities towards real stakeholders.
  • The students work in groups with clear individual tasks, which also give them tangible responsibilities towards fellow students.
  • The students will be stimulated permanently by feedback and reflection sessions with dedicated teachers and fellow students.


For more information or recommendations, please contact wim.vanderknaap@wur.nl.