A cross-institutional research team seeks staff and student participants for a new research project into linguistic and cultural barriers in design education.



Students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds contribute significantly to Australia’s social diversity and economic prosperity. However, the modes of teaching and assessment used in architecture and design may not be meeting the needs of these students.

The assumption that design is a universal language has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years. Despite the efforts of architectural educators to accommodate linguistic differences, very little is known about the way in which languages shape the thought processes that occur during design.

Language, as a system, is a reflection of the way we think and of our sociocultural values, both of which are central to the process of design. Hence, the architecture student’s experience of design is mediated by language.

A growing awareness of the problems that culturally and linguistically diverse students face when learning to design signalled the need for the recently awarded Office of Learning and Teaching research grant titled ‘Developing Pedagogical Solutions to Linguistic and Cultural Barriers in Design Education Supporting Asian Architecture Students’.

The research will be carried out by a national project team from five institutions including: The University of Newcastle, University of South Australia, RMIT University, Deakin University and Queensland University of Technology.

The research aims to develop an understanding of how linguistic characteristics correlate to design activities. In addition, the project aims to improve our understanding of the specific needs of Asian design students, focusing on the impact of language and associated embedded cultural and value structures in design.

Upon analysing the research results the project team intends to develop pedagogical guidelines to distribute to architecture and design educators in order to better support culturally and linguistically diverse students’ learning. These guidelines will aim to provide educators with strategies to assist students in creating positive learning experiences, help reduce student attrition rates and improve overall academic success.

Researchers working on this cross-institutional research project include Professor Ning Gu from the University of South Australia; Dr. Ju Hyun Lee, Professor Michael Ostwald, Professor Mark Taylor and Katie Cadman from the University of Newcastle; Associate Professor Richard Tucker from Deakin University; Associate Professor Jane Burry from RMIT University; and Professor Robin Drogemuller from the Queensland University of Technology.

The research team will be recruiting staff and student participants for the research project during the second half of 2016. As the project progresses a national forum will be organised to discuss the issues surrounding the research and disseminate the findings.

For further information, contact the Project Manager Katie Cadman via email.