Tuesday, March 27, 2012


The RAIA web site for the 2012 convention was googled in order to find out more about this event. The site http://www.architecture.com.au/i-cms?page= opened with the bold declaration that this was a first ever for Brisbane:

Brisbane to host nation's top architecture conference for first time

 AIA experience Click here to visit the 2012 National Architecture Conference

I wondered if everyone had forgotten the National Conference called The Functions of Architecture held in Brisbane in the 80's, so I asked. The RAIA responded with the explanation that this conference was being promoted as the first in the last twenty years. Well, I have yet to see this mentioned anywhere, but it is an interesting twist - spin. It is not at all clear to anyone who has not asked. I clicked on the link provided and scanned the list of subjects on the left-hand side of the screen:
  • CPD
A couple of links were opened and the information was scanned through quickly. Then my eye caught those letters that send a shiver of doubt and uncertainty up the spine of anyone who has given thought to the latest challenge for a registered architect in Queensland: Continuing Professional Development - CPD. The Board of Architects' information sheet on this subject had been read through and time had been spent chatting to colleagues on this subject. Everyone was asking about this matter, wanting to know what others were going to do. Might one learn more from this link that opened the following page boldly headed 'experience' in patchy colours? It offers far more detail than the Board of Architects information sheet. Is it really a part of the formal requirements for regiustration or just some one's wish list? Who prepared this text? Why has it not been distributed by the Board? Formal Assessment Requirements are all listed clearly along with a Suggested Structure:




CPD is an important focus of experience.  The conference provides the opportunity to build your knowledge
across a range of engaging and relevant topics, making a significant contribution to your CPD needs.

Informal CPD:        All sessions provide informal CPD – your attendance counts as informal CPD.
Formal CPD:          Most sessions can provide formal CPD points – you need to complete a written report.

Formal Assessment Requirements
Formal assessment will take the form of a written report about the session attended. 
This means that you can choose to undertake any session as formal CPD according to your own requirements
and interests.

  • Written report on the session attended.
  • You may use whatever structure you believe is appropriate.
  • Your report should focus on what you learned from the presentation/discussion, rather than just being a repetition of the session content.
  • A possible structure is suggested below.
  • 400 words (approximately)
  • It is expected that the assessment will take 15 minutes to complete for a session.
CPD Points
  • See the following table.
  • You must submit your report to the Institute to claim the session as formal CPD.
  • Submit your report on the Institute’s CPD website www.continuum.com.au/raia in the section CPD Submissions.
  • New users can register for free but must have individually attended the conference.
  • Tuesday 12 June 2012 - Reports must be submitted no later than this date. We advise you to
    submit your report within the following week so the content is fresh in your mind.
  • The report should be of suitable quality for public review. 
  • Check your own report against those published on the website. 
  • Reports will vary and most will provide a unique ‘take’ on the session.
  • Compare the perspective and issues covered with those in your own report:  what can you learn from others and their differing/similar views?
  • All answers will be published on the CPD Submissions page once they are approved.
  • Answers will be published as they are submitted, so please check them thoroughly.
  • Your name, as the author of a report, will be made public for peer-to-peer review.
  • A certificate of submission will be sent to you acknowledging receipt of your report and identifying the CPD points earned.
  • Keep the certificate and a copy of your report for your personal CPD record.
  • We welcome your feedback regarding the assessment process.

Suggested Structure
The following structure may help to make the report a useful learning exercise for you and your potential readers. 
The questions are provided as prompts for reflection and discussion. 

  • What in the presentation challenged you to think about architecture and its practice differently?

  • What were some of the key points/issues raised during the presentation?

  • What are some implications of these for the practice of architecture broadly?

  • What other issues/ideas do the key points suggest for you?

  • What did you learn from the presentation/discussion?

  • What will you do differently in your own workplace or apply personally as a result?
 Well, who could ask for more? The thought was that less might have been better. Why was  the CPD issue being treated like an exam? Has this material been prepared by academics/school teachers who know no better way to communicate?

The instructions read like a handout to a class of children being introduced to the ways of writing a report on a particular subject. "Now children, I would like you all to write down in 400 words just what you have learned from the class today. I want these reports handed in by the end of this week. To assist you in this task, the handout gives some guidelines for the preparation of these reports. Read these carefully and ask if you have any questions. The next class will be on Thursday. Don't forget to bring you notebooks. And please be on time."

One might cynically suggest that CPD stands for Continuing Pre-School Development. It is difficult to place this published information into the context of guidelines for architects of any experience, let alone those with mature skills. If this document is really seen to be useful - necessary - then one can see why CPD is essential. Indeed, it might be suggested that there is something awry with the basic training of architects.

There are many questions with CPD. The line that caught the eye amongst the many was the sentence: 'All answers will be published on the CPD Submisisons page once they are approved.' Gosh, it is a test! Who is going to do the assessments? What if you fail? Dention? Write out the answer one hundred times? Are assessments going to be based strictly on the guideleines issued? What happens if one writes that nothing was learned? The cuts? What if only one hundred words are written? Who is going to count? Then one reads that, 'A certificate of submission will be sent to you acknowledging receipt of your report and identifying the CPD points earned.' Who is going to do all of this? If this person is a practicing architect? Is s/he registered? Who does this assessment? What is the skills criteria for this task?  I doubt if any practicing architect would have time to be involved. Who else?

Consider: the web site identifies, at the end of the scheduled programme - as if this was the answer - that this conference can earn one 13.5 points total. Is that good? Let's say that 500 architects attend the conference and all seek to maximise the points they can gain. Not everyone goes to all events, so let us say that the average is 10 points per person. At two points per event, this means that five events have to be attended 'in person' as the notes spell out. Surely no one would cheat? This means that 2,500 reports will have to be assessed and responded to. It looks as though the old problem has arisen - the teacher/lecturer has forgotten that while it is easy to set tasks and go home, s/he ends up with piles of paper or data to assess. It would take weeks to do this properly. Or is this just a pretend issue? Say it takes two minutes to speed read and take in the report. Less seems totally insufficient in relation to the seriousness of the guideleines;  out of scale with the original effort of 15 minutes per event. This means that it will take over 80 hours of continuous assessment to review all submissions - two weeks if you are not to go nuts, but there is no guarantee that this will not be the outcome.

What is the issue here? Apart from the problem with the school teacher-styled guidelines and prompts, one has to ask about the intent of CPD before one is able to comment on the process. Just what is the aim of this new condition for registration? The concept appears to be hinted at in the suggested structure of the reports - 'What are the implications of these (issues learned from the session) for the practice of architecture broadly?' It appears that the intent of CPD relates to improving the practice of architecture. This sounds reasonable until one asks: what is the practice of architecture? The writer of the guidelines seems to have realised that this is not an easy question to answer as the word 'broadly' has been used to qualify this understanding - apparently to allow for various and sundry interpretations.

This appears reasonable as the practice of architecture is indeed varied and diverse. Architects are well known to be so broadly skilled as to be able to apply their training to a variety of different tasks. While this breadth causes potential problems with definitions of practice, there is another meaner aspect of practice that requires a generalisation in its interpretation as practice also. Offices have become more and more specialised in their allocation of tasks for particular skills. So there are design architects; architects who spend most of the time documenting projects or writing reports; other use their time for supervision; specification writing; client management; staff management. Some architects give professional advice to corporations and the courts. There are many more variations beyond this short schedule. It is all the work of an architect. Then we have the tertiary educators of architects. Is this practice? Gosh, these are the people who have the authority to give courses for points for others to accrue! How can such a diverse set of tasks all be improved by CPD?

One has to agree with the idea of continued learning; but assessment? The concept of completing a course, graduating, registering as an architect and then practicing for the rest of one's life without ever again thinking about the profession, or researching or learning about things architectural, be these practical, legal, theoretical, managerial, or otherwise, is daunting. One has to at least keep up with 'the latest knowledge' or show some interest in it. The concept of progress suggests this, but there is also the matter of not forgetting the past too - of learning from it. While it almost appears impossible for one to practice architecture without 'keeping up,' one supposes that some architects might neglect this aspect of their profession. There is in some the idea that once they are out of college/university, they are then free to do whatever they choose to make money away from the constraints of supervision and the challenges of study and research that is subjected to review. So CPD could be useful in playoing a role.

Why is it so constrained? Reading the Board of Architect's information sheet, one gains a clear understanding that only certain 'approved' situaitons will gain points for an architect. These seem restrictive in thre light of the broad church of this profession. The 'flip' side of this rigour is the vague and unspupervised, casual - informal - aspect of CPD situations for which one is able to claim points. No situaiton is accredited by the Board for quality or content - formal or informal - so one can see a future of all kinds of seminars and sessions being set up to provide essential points by those seeking to make money out of the new rules. The danger is that architects will become just like the disgruntled students - shut up, do it, get the points and get out, just to be registered. There is no development here except in guile.

It seems that one way out of this dilemma is to have the Board run sufficient quality sessions so as to allow those who choose to attend to gain the points for one year. This would then set the standard for others. One would not have to attend the Board's sessions but would have to show how they have attended other sessions of equal quality. This is not perfect, but it is a start. It raises the old question: why does the Board do so little for the profession?

With such a broad professional set of skills, one wonders why many other circumstances are not point winners. Still, one becomes depressed and disenchanted to have to debate the principle of the collection of points, knowing that points prove nothing. There is a Zen saying about acting self-consciously and achieving nothing other than killing the outcome sought. 'If a man seeks the Tao, that man loses the Tao.' 'Your ordinary mind is the Tao, and by attending to accord with it, you immediately deviate.'

There is a quality of this self-consiousness of effort superceding the intent and becoming a task - a challenge - in its own right. Learning is richer than the imposition of tasks, and the grading of assessments. Experience is involved. Ironically this convention is titled 'experience.' There is a great gap between the sublety of experience and how we learn from it, and the strucutre and management of CPD. Bureaucracy will only tick boxes. Learning needs its own space and time - its own experience. It is complex. It involves love and care, not rules and points. These will teach one nothing but the scheduling of numbers when used to control people - and professions. Architects should be creative enough to develop a sysytem, (if one is needed), that can accommodate its broad interests and activities. Behaving like school teachers might is really an insult. Indeed, it is an insult to teachers too, as these, even pre-school teachers, know about learning through creativity and play. Why is CPD so stilted? Can it achieve anytihng beyond counting - accounting?

This is one of the problems of becoming self conscious, and all education is an instruction in self-consciousness. What do you learn in education? You learn words - symbols about reality - and with those words you become able to talk about living, to think about living, and to have knowledge about living. Knowledge is not academically respectable knowledge unless it is knowledge in terms of words or in terms of numbers, that is to say, in terms of a symbolic language about life. Once we know that we know, and we know we are alive and we know we are going to die because we can anticipate our futures, we feel that we have lost our innocence and something has gone wrong.
The whole problem of self-consciousness is that it puts us in a perennial dither and doubt.
Alan Watts, Talking Zen, Weatherhill, New York, Tokyo, 1994, page 167.

One might be asked to please explain.
. . . by explaining these things to you I shall subject you to a very serious hoax.
ibid., page 185
Traditional wisdom says that if these matters can be explained, they would have been.
 . . . one cannot act creatively except on the basis of stillness, of having a mind that is from time to time capable of stopping thinking.
ibid., page 194.


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