University Of Tasmania
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Learning by making. Long-term collaborations and socially productive outcomes

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-19, 14:07 authored by Richard BurnhamRichard Burnham, Louise WallisLouise Wallis
The Learning-by-Making (LBM) program at the University of Tasmania has 20 years experience in collaborative, community-based “live” studios. Academics involved in the program have intuitively understood that a learning environment integrated with the public realm, and based in a constructed reality affords students an immersive understanding of the design process. More recently the program has shifted its focus from stand-alone, client-responsive projects to a long-term, design-led research agenda. Individual projects - including micro-dwellings, scout huts, an exhibition stand and a mobile playground - are seen as steps in the evolution of an innovative building system that harnesses the creative and socially productive potentials of digital fabrication. The benefits of this shift for academics and clients are clear. For academics, research and teaching activities can be mutually supportive, while clients benefit from a design/fabricate/assemble process that has been tested, analysed, applied and incrementally improved. The primary focus of this paper will however attempt to identify the educational impact on participating students, and will do so using the analytical lens of a relevant educational theory called threshold concepts1. The theory suggests that students can overcome barriers to learning when specific criteria or “dimensions” are present.

The results of this analysis indicate that in this environment learning can be transformative, resulting in irreversible conceptual links between design idea, fabrication and practice. The conceptual space of the project is bounded by the research objective, budget, technology and client requirements, and integrative in that they inevitably involve decisions on materials, structures, habitation patterns and climate control. The learning is discursive as students are required to articulate their opinions on design decisions, both within the student group and with community collaborators. The primary data sources for this investigation have been students’ reflective journals, combined with teacher observations.


Publication title

Journal of Public Space






School of Architecture and Design


Queensland University of Technology

Place of publication


Rights statement

Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Learner and learning not elsewhere classified