Caught … not Taught

One of the greatest parts of my education as an architect at the University of Kansas was the wood and steel shop. In studio and in classrooms, I was taught. But in the shop, I was caught. That’s right: I got caught. There is a big difference here and it is important to understand the differences as we enter into the 21st Century.

Auditory and visual learning in the classroom is still the predominant pedagogical method. But what about kinesthetic learning? We do quite a bit of kinesthetic learning in the early grades of primary school, but this type of “hands on” learning dramatically tapers off as we move to high school and college. Most of our students sit in desks and look and/or listen. The eyes and ears dominate the educational stage.

When we learn with our hands and body, we learn in a deeper, different way.

One of the reasons that the “hands on” professions and crafts are on the decline is that our schools and our culture have evolved over the last century to prefer the visual and auditory over the “cutaneous”. Learning through our skin, our hands and our bodies may seem “old school” and that’s because it is. Learning with one’s hands and working side by side with a master craftsman in a trade was for centuries the predominant way of learning. The word itself, kinesthetic is from the Greek: kin – to move. Being caught (not taught) needs a pedagogical radical re-investment today.

As architects, it is important to challenge the status quo of educational environments. In a recent project for Ranken Technical College, JEMA designed a hybrid building that combines part “caught” and part “taught”. The facility has visual and auditory classrooms, but it combines those classrooms with a “hands on” laboratory. Students go from eye and ear classroom settings to skin and body laboratories, and then back again, and then back again. This type of multi-sense learning ingrains a subject matter in the student. A deeper imprint is formed. Combining visual and auditory with kinesthetic learning is the most effective and enduring way for a student to be caught!