In part 4 of this series of blogs by Robin, he spoke about his transition from Collage to University. In today’s final installment Robin talks about life after university, continual professional development and more…

After my degree, I undertook a years practical experience with an Architectural practice, keeping a diary of my work as part of my Architectural Professional examination experience. I returned to University to undertake a Post-Graduate Diploma (technically, a second Degree). This was a follow on from the previous Degree, with Lecture, Studio and Practical work, but as the course progressed, moving more away from lecture programme to strictly and solely Studio design work, culminating in a single major design Thesis project in the second year. In year 6 of the 7 years various education and practical experience, I had to stop and defer due to a health issue, Ankylosing Spondylitis, a Musculoskeletal disorder and inflammatory form of Arthritis and Autoimmune condition mainly affecting the Spine with links to other associated and affected joints and parts of the body. This had been simmering away for a number of years, and it was only after my Degree and towards the end of the years practical work experience and start of the Post-Graduate Diploma, that it was fully diagnosed, but caused too much interference to permit continuation with this course.

In planning, pursuing and undertaking a career path, through education and work, there can be particular needs or requirements or even unforeseen circumstances, including learning or aptitude such as skill difficulties, ill-health or other personal and social issues, and thus can be full of uncertainty. A suddenly occurring or on ongoing issue, can interfere, or even terminate the best laid plans, such as with education, and the longer the course or number of courses such as Architecture, the greater the risk or potential for something going wrong. Pitfalls do exist and are not always related and specific to course failure. Accommodating and provision for such situations and eventualities – support, access, facilities, personal requirements etc.., and continuation of study, can be a major issue, if not forthcoming, available or made readily accessible.

I had planned, mapped, shaped out, and even orchestrated a ‘predefined’ career path that educationally was to entail 7 years – thus a long-time for unpredictably for the unexpected, which I was to encounter. And few options were made available to me: rather than modification or adaption to suit needs for example, extension of time such as with coursework requirements, instead to defer and repeat a year. This was not practical, as with an on-going health issue, problems through interference and interruptions with study could occur at any time, and through taking time off and being lost, would result in the falling behind with the course programme with the issue of how to catch-up. And if this was not possible, then what would happen. Withdraw and repeat the year again?

Thus, there should exist flexibility and adaptability for such a scenario. Depending on what support is available, there are a number of career options that exist; including, sit and do nothing, i.e. halt or stop that being done, e.g. Educational course, confront and adapt to circumstances if possible, or change direction and try something else e.g. Re-education / re-training.

With my own health circumstances, due to limited, even lack of, practical ‘accommodating’ options at University I chose to stop what I was doing, and move on to doing something else adaptable to suit meeting personal needs and requirements.

I worked for a number of years as a self-employed and freelance Architectural, Building Design and Construction Consultant, being able to set my own working environment to suit my health status, e.g. Hours, nature and amount of work etc…

I subsequently returned to University to develop a long-term interest I had in environmental, ecological and sustainability issues within this area of work and the built environment, and undertook a part-time Masters Degree in a related subject. This course as I had come to find with all my education encounters and experiences, at schooling, further and higher education was different to that experienced before in terms of teaching and learning approach and methods. Student numbers with over 60 on the course were the highest I had ever encountered. This reflected directly through ‘lecture’ style teaching, with issues including, accommodation and space allocation with crowding and interaction with lack of personal student /staff contact with difficulties for staff fielding numerous questions and debate leading off at tangents from the focus of taught subjects. However, the additional use of smaller seminar, tutorial and discussion groups was more interpersonal. The course programme, included options for attendance as well as through internet based distance learning, and rather than being offered and provided as taught lectures running as a series throughout a year, was based on a number of units or modules each run over a period of one month being based on different topics and themes. Each unit or module was assessed by coursework. This was unique in the fact that a theme from within in it being chosen by the student, i.e. own selected and set, defined topic and subject, taking the form of an essay or report, itself in turn reproduced as an audience presentation in a chosen format, and additionally supported with assigned and set practical work, ranging from using computer software, calculation and simulation work, through to working with building materials, all being written up in report format.

And this is a clever way of learning, being able to be able to pick and work with subjects where it might be that with them, one wants to develop further learning, or has a particular interest, or relationship, such as with work or employment.

The presentation (formats) and practical work (actual undertaking) elements of the course presented an interesting challenge for distance learning, to be able to carry out work at home, using, adapting and working with whatever resources were available, such as building materials, tools and equipment and to find imaginative methods of presenting work on-line, such as through use of social media tools.

The course was very much research based and orientated with the onus on students to develop their own learning and skills such as with the approach to devising own coursework, and with the culmination being a research, written Thesis.

This was a course with a unique, distinctive and interesting form of learning – with practical, flexible and creative elements; with a liberal and informal edge in part, but still, disciplined and organized such as with set timetabling of units and modules with their lectures, and strict hand-in times,

And for those with health and disability issues including myself, I found it to be accommodating and supportive with regards, the various options and alternatives available in particular with regards attendance and requirements for coursework submission with acceptable format methods, amount of work and submission deadlines.

I have additionally undertaken a number of short courses during and after my spells in Higher Education and each have been different from a learning perspective through programme of teaching and study.

Robin Brittain
Robin is Principal of Robin Brittain Consultants, providing Architectural / Building Services, through:-

Education, Research, Design & Buildability Solutions, Identification and Addressing of Building Defects, and Project Management.
With a special interest and focus promoting Environmental / Ecological, and Conservation, awareness and issues including Sustainability in the Built Environment.

Robin is also a qualified Code for Sustainable Homes Assessor.

He can be contacted via…

Telephone: 07890 658974
Twitter: @robinbrittain