Magda Mostafa, Hoda M H Mostafa



Architecture is a complex process involving the divergent resolution of a multitude of factors- social, ecological, technical, economic, functional, ethical and aesthetic. Despite this diversity all architectural problem solving processes share one common factor- they must be resolved spatially. This paper sets out to explore how best to develop these spatial thinking skills in young architects through addressing their learning styles in education. The primary hypothesis tested is twofold. First using the Solomon & Felder (2007) definition of learning styles and their Index of Learning Styles Questionnaire the average profile of a study group from the freshmen and sophomore architectural student body at the Architectural Engineering Program of the American University in Cairo is mapped and compared to that of a control group from the general population of the university from a cross-section of majors. Secondly, using the Spatial Ability test by Newton & Bristoll (2009), the spatial ability of both the control and study groups are measured and compared. The analysis of these results tests the assumption that the majority of architectural students will be visual, rather than verbal; and active, rather than reflective, learners; as well as exhibiting higher spatial abilities, as compared to the control group.

The performance of students in these tests are then correlated against their learning styles profile using the following sets- low spatial ability against both reflective and verbal learning; moderate spatial ability against neutral learning styles; and high spatial ability against both active and visual learning. The results show a particular corroboration between high spatial ability and active learning in the entire group of students- both study, and control- as well as a strong corroboration between high spatial ability and visual learning- with a higher correlation in architecture students, reaching 100% in some classes. It is hoped that by understanding how our students think and learn, rather than operating on assumptions, we can provide more responsive and customized modes of learning and teaching in our studios.


Architectural education; pedagogy; learning styles; spatial ability

Full Text:



Demirbas, O., & Demirkan, H. (2003). Focus on architectural design process through learning styles. Design Studies, 24(5), 437-456.

D’Souza, N. (2007). Design intelligences: A case for multiple intelligences in architectural design. ArchNet International Journal of Architectural Research, 1(2), 15-34.

Felder, R., & Silverman, L. (1988). Learning and teaching styles in engineering education. Engineering Education, 78(7), 674-681.

Felder, R., & Soloman, B. (2004). Index of learning styles. Retrieved on 20 September 2009 from http://

Goldschmidt, G., (2000). Who should be a designer? Controlling admission into schools of architecture. Unpublished Research. Delft, Netherlands: University of Delft.

Harvey, R. (2004). Beyond learning styles: Understanding the learning processes of engineering students through the interactive learning model. In ASEE Annual Conference Proceedings “Engineering Education Researches New Heights.

Kolb, D. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Kvan, T., & Yunyan, J. (2005). Students’ learning styles and their correlation with performance in architectural design studio. Design Studies, 26, 19-34

Lawson, B. (2006). How designers think: The design process demystified. Oxford and Burlington: Elsevier.

Litzenger, T. et al (2007). Psychometric study of the index of learning styles. Journal of Engineering Education, 96(4), 309-319.

Mills, J. et al (2005). Learning about learning styles: Can this improves engineering education. MountainRise, 2(1). Retrieved from accessed 05/09/2009

Mostafa, M. (2008). Thinking outside the box: Addressing and enhancing visual/ spatial and active learning in architectural education. Design Principles and Practices International Journal, 2(1).

Newton, P., & Bristoll, H. (n.d.) Spatial ability test 1. Retrieved on 1 September 2009 from

Smith, P., & Dalton, J. (2005). Getting to grips with learning styles. Australian Government: NCVER.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2015 International Journal of Architectural Research: ArchNet-IJAR

Copyrights © Archnet-IJAR 2007-2018


Hit Counter
Visitor Hits Since 15 Jan 2014