Create. Share. Engage.

Sofia Colabella & Alberto Pugnale: A blueprint for working with portfolios with architecture students

September 13, 2023 Mahara Project, Sofia Colabella, Alberto Pugnale Season 1 Episode 27
Sofia Colabella & Alberto Pugnale: A blueprint for working with portfolios with architecture students
Create. Share. Engage.
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Create. Share. Engage.
Sofia Colabella & Alberto Pugnale: A blueprint for working with portfolios with architecture students
Sep 13, 2023 Season 1 Episode 27
Mahara Project, Sofia Colabella, Alberto Pugnale

Dr Sofia Colabella and Dr Alberto Pugnale work at the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning (ABP) of The University of Melbourne in Australia. They have been working with design portfolios for many years, and recently introduced an ePortfolio into their classes. This helped them discover how powerful the medium and practice can be, in particular in getting to know their students as persons.

Their findings can be applied to other study programmes and are a wonderful way to engage with students through scaffolding the portfolio practice yet leave enough space for them to bring in their own personalities.

Click through to the episode notes for the transcript.

Connect with


Subscribe to the monthly newsletter about Mahara and portfolios.

Production information
Production: Catalyst IT
Host: Kristina Hoeppner
Artwork: Evonne Cheung
Music: The Mahara tune by Josh Woodward

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Dr Sofia Colabella and Dr Alberto Pugnale work at the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning (ABP) of The University of Melbourne in Australia. They have been working with design portfolios for many years, and recently introduced an ePortfolio into their classes. This helped them discover how powerful the medium and practice can be, in particular in getting to know their students as persons.

Their findings can be applied to other study programmes and are a wonderful way to engage with students through scaffolding the portfolio practice yet leave enough space for them to bring in their own personalities.

Click through to the episode notes for the transcript.

Connect with


Subscribe to the monthly newsletter about Mahara and portfolios.

Production information
Production: Catalyst IT
Host: Kristina Hoeppner
Artwork: Evonne Cheung
Music: The Mahara tune by Josh Woodward

Kristina Hoeppner 00:05

Welcome to 'Create. Share. Engage.' This is the podcast about portfolios for learning and more for educators, learning designers, and managers keen on integrating portfolios with their education and professional development practices. 'Create. Share. Engage.' is brought to you by the Mahara team at Catalyst IT. My name is Kristina Hoeppner. 

Kristina Hoeppner 00:28

Today I'm speaking with two architects. And no, I'm not planning on building a house, but rather explore how portfolios can be used in an architecture study programme. To that effect, I invited Dr Sofia Colabella, a Lecturer in Architectural Technology and Dr Alberto Pugnale, a Senior Lecturer in Architectural Design. They both work at the Faculty of Architecture, Building, and Planning of the University of Melbourne in Australia. Recently, they published the article 'Supporting the journey of architecture students towards graduation through a design ePortfolio' together with Michael Mack and Catherine Mei Min Woo in 'Frontiers in Education'. Congratulations on having your research published, Sofia and Alberto. 

Alberto Pugnale 01:14

Thank you.

Sofia Colabella 01:15

Thank you, Kristina, thank you so much for having us. It's a delight to have this conversation with you.

Kristina Hoeppner 01:21

I, of course, have lots of architecture questions, especially because both of you work with grid shells, which seems to be really, really fascinating concept. However, I think I'd better stick to portfolios today so that we get to know a bit more how you as architects both got interested in working with portfolios and introducing your students to it as well as making sure that they have some benefits from it. The first question then, to you, Alberto, how did you actually get interested in working with portfolios?

Alberto Pugnale 01:51

Well, in 2019, we decided to apply for funding, university internal funding, and there is a granting system called 'Learning and Teaching Initiatives'. We decided to apply to develop design portfolios that could be used as part of the architectural technology stream. At the time, Sofia and I were both teaching an architectural technology subject in the undergraduate programme and since in architecture and in architectural design, design portfolios are commonly used because our students and also practitioners generally keep an up-to-date portfolio of their work, we thought maybe there is something we could do to expand the use of portfolios also to the technology stream because our students generally look at detailing and the tectonic qualities of buildings also, how historical precedents were built. We started with a very, let's say, almost narrow focus to expand the scope of traditional design portfolios.

Kristina Hoeppner 02:52

Thank you for that. Alberto. Can you please briefly explain for us non designers and non architects what a design studio is?

Alberto Pugnale 03:00

In architecture education, we generally have two different types of subjects, or at least, let's say three. There are traditional seminar based subjects where students go to class, complete assignments, sit exams. We have then design studio settings where the students are given a brief or design brief, let's say there's no houses and a museum or anything else. And within a short time frame, generally, it's 12 to 14 weeks, they have to prepare their own project. Generally, it's individual or it could be done in small groups, and they present a few boards and model perhaps some digital renderings, and that's where the students learn to design. 

Alberto Pugnale 03:40

There is also maybe an expansion of that through the intensive workshops. So that could be a design studio that is run intensively all day long for a week or two weeks and maybe a design and construction workshop where the students build something at small scale or at full scale. So these are mainly three settings and at the end of their degree, the students will probably select most of their studio work for their portfolio and will look for a job presenting their own projects.

Kristina Hoeppner 04:09

Thank you. So Sofia, why did you decide to trial and ePortfolio with your architecture students?

Sofia Colabella 04:18

Architecture students are used to preparing portfolios and design journals to document the learning journey and the step towards the final design proposal. But generally, all the intermediate steps are invisible in the final presentation, which shows the final outcome and the last phase of the design process and very little of the design thinking process that students went through is shown. So their passions, motivations, aspiration are often unclear, as students are not required nor trained to complement their portfolios with such information. 

Sofia Colabella 04:52

Therefore, the ePortfolio strategy seemed a natural response to these limits and as an overarching strategy implementation at the university level was meant to push the ePortfolio strategies across faculty. We found ourselves in the odd position of having design portfolios embedded in our curricula, but not a general framework to enable an architectural faculty ePortfolio.

Kristina Hoeppner 05:17

So what was the goal then of your research project that you started a few years ago?

Sofia Colabella 05:23

We wanted to transform exactly the traditional project based portfolios into flexible and reflective portfolios. Introducing flexibility meant adopting new sets of skills and different tools to map the students' growth. And for these students to define their own study path. The idea was to inspire students through their own observations, passions, and studies. We wanted to create situation where inspiration is more likely to emerge. 

Sofia Colabella 05:51

Key to this point also is to train students in pattern recognition. That's a very good way to find inspiration. In terms of research project, we try to answer three questions which are also analysed in our article. That are the definition of the best ePortfolio platform for architectural students. And then the second one is the types and formats of ePortfolio that could best cover for the students learning, reflections, experimentation and progress in core subjects within the Bachelor of Design. The third was the implementation in our subjects. So how the portfolio could be incorporated within the Bachelor of Design.

Kristina Hoeppner 06:31

That is quite the programme for your research project. And so of course, you're outlining all of that really, really well in the 'Frontiers in Education' article, but Alberto to briefly give our listeners an overview of what they can expect in your article, could you please outline the different phases of your project?

Alberto Pugnale 06:52

The project was quite ambitious. It was a year and a half project that was then extended to two years. Because I think it's worth mentioning, we completed the entire project in a lockdown setting.

Kristina Hoeppner 07:02

Especially in Melbourne with the longest lockdown. 

Alberto Pugnale 07:05

That wasn't the plan, but that's the way it happened. So let's say it was overall a two-year project, and we could subdivide it into three main phases. In the first phase, we had focus groups and interviews with students, roughly 18, 20 students, selected from our undergraduate programme to understand what an ePortfolio could be in a Faculty of Architecture where design portfolios are commonly used. So how does an ePortfolio differentiate from that. 

Alberto Pugnale 07:31

The second stage of the project looked at the refinement of these ePortfolios that we developed in the first stage only with a few selected number of students. In the third and last stage of the project, we decided to implement our own idea of ePortfolio into the Capstone Design Studio of the Bachelor of Design, which is our undergraduate programme. Then the ePortfolio was also implemented in first year and in other subjects. But the three phases can roughly be subdivided in that way: development of what an ePortfolio is, refinement, and implementation.

Kristina Hoeppner 08:07

I really like the distinction that you're making in the article between the traditional design portfolio and the design ePortfolio that Sofia had already briefly outlined that you are focusing more on the process and not just at the end product, which I find is a really good way of working with portfolios and making sure that we are not just looking at one aspect, but that we have a lot of the reflection included in the process and therefore get to know more what the students have learned and how they are learning that. 

Kristina Hoeppner 08:26

Kind of jumping a bit to the end already because I do not want to take away from the reading pleasure of the article for people to discover all the fantastic things on their own, what was one of the results of your project that links between the personal and also the professional interests? Can you tell us more about that, Alberto?

Alberto Pugnale 09:01

That was one of the most fascinating parts of the project because during the initial focus groups and the tasks that were given to students, we realised that many of them even though they said "Yes, we're really engaged with this new idea of ePortfolio, we'll try our best," most of them actually came back to us with a very traditional interpretation of what an ePortfolio could be. Most of our students know what a design portfolio is and therefore, I think, they were naturally biased and they thought our expectations were of a certain kind, but one of the students probably because she didn't have time to complete the ePortfolio, just decided to do something quick and easy, an interest map and a timeline of what she did in high school, what she was doing outside university and to put all that together in a sort of mind map with a timeline to explain her trains of thought. That wasn't an ePortfolio. It was just a first sketch of an ePortfolio, and we thought it was incredibly powerful because it was what we missed. 

Alberto Pugnale 10:00

In order to make sure that our students could develop a ePortfolio that was different from traditional design portfolios, we had to interview them first and go through with them and discuss their interests, their extracurricular activities, their ambitions, what they did in the past, their background. And as they were talking, we were working on Miro boards to prepare some notes for them to see, it was much clearer for students to see themselves through the eyes of the interviewer. 

Alberto Pugnale 10:28

So that I think one of the biggest results that we realised that we had to know our students a bit more in order to guide them about the way their ePortfolio should be developed. And that was the beginning of everything else, the different exercises that we developed.

Kristina Hoeppner 10:42

So Sofia, maybe as a follow-up question for you then because yes, you're having a number of those learning journeys and maps in your article, how have they helped you then to get to know your students better, to refine your questions that you're asking them, and ultimately also to judge their portfolio?

Sofia Colabella 11:02

Well, the idea was that through the interviews, we could understand better where they come from in terms of building new knowledge upon pre existing knowledge. So the idea of knowing better their passions, their skills that were maybe already developed, and how to move from there was the best way to finalise the process of mapping out their interests, so guiding them towards the creation of creative maps.

Kristina Hoeppner 11:34

Do you think actually also that the visualisation has been very powerful and worked really well with your students because they are in an architectural programme and therefore do more with visuals and not necessarily always just only words?

Sofia Colabella 11:50

Absolutely. Yeah, you're totally right. So that's twofold. It first is that they are used to express themselves through mapping, sketches, diagramming. So it was kind of an easy tool for them to prepare maps to explain their evolution. And the same applies also for the platform. The fact that we didn't use a pre built platform depended on the fact that students are used to prepare not only the message, but also the medium because they create also the graphic and the way they convey the message.

Kristina Hoeppner 12:23

Interestingly enough, though, I think then, in the end, you did come up with some templates that students could use when you're having your next round. 

Sofia Colabella 12:32

That's right. 

Kristina Hoeppner 12:33

I really loved those because they are just the best since they are not really your typical templates in a way because what I really like about them is that they still give a lot of freedom. You scaffold the exercise to a degree, but you only give minimal handrails, and therefore the students can still interpret what they actually want to make out of it, and so the portfolio identities and templates that you've created that our listeners can look up the visualisations for them in the article are so wonderfully named. The five personas, there is the theorist, the journalist, the engineer, the eclectic, and the evaluator. Have you already had a chance since your research finished during the pandemic to trial these templates with students that came after your initial study group?

Sofia Colabella 13:22

Yeah, we trialled these identities at the capstone level, so Design Studio Epsilon, coordinated by Djordge Stojanovic, Senior Lecturer in Architectural Design. The funny thing is that the outcome was pretty interesting because students interpreted in very different ways the identities and the templates because of course, in that case, the activity was run during the tutorial time and therefore all the outcomes depended on the tutor, on the subject coordinator, on the student passion, and also interest in mapping out in a creative way their ePortfolio.

Kristina Hoeppner 13:59

Are you still happy with your five portfolio identities or would you add one more?

Alberto Pugnale 14:06

The thing is that after completing the project, the implementation took place in different subjects and also with the support of different subject coordinators. Now, this has been done for three consecutive rounds, if not four, in Design Studio Epsilon. So they will probably have about 500 portfolios to look at to develop eventually new identities. And the same with Sofia and Kelum Palipane and in the first year, the very first design studio, that was the recent implementation of ePortfolio at that level. But at that level, it was primarily an introduction to the idea of reflecting on your own work, and we didn't show any identities or templates. 

Alberto Pugnale 14:49

The interesting thing is that it's up to the subject coordinator to bring this forward. We developed some starting guidelines, some templates, or probably it's much better as you define them as 'identities' because they're not really templates. It's more our interpretation of what the student wants to become or what the student sees in themselves, but there could be many more. We haven't really had the occasion to look at all the portfolios that were developed and start another project that would take another six to 12 months to analyse these results.

Kristina Hoeppner 15:21

I think it's still fascinating to see what your learning designers now make out of it and also in the other subjects in the architecture programme, but also seeing if they can be taken to other study programmes at the university because often metaphors or comparisons to something that people are used to can help with the learning into making something more familiar. So if somebody knows, 'Okay, I'm more of a journalist,' then they have an idea of how they want to structure things. Yes, it's not a template that tells you step-by-step what to do, but it still gives you that guidance that could also very well help not having that blank page syndrome, not really knowing where to start and where to go from. 

Kristina Hoeppner 16:02

Sofia, we've been talking a little bit about your project, your research, what the students have made out of it, how they pointed you to things that they thought was really important for them, how they included visualisations in their learning journey process, what do you think are some potential long term benefits using portfolios or using the design ePortfolio, not the traditional design portfolio with architecture students?

Sofia Colabella 16:29

Well, short answer is learning how to learn, right [laughs]? That's one of the best outcomes of the ePortfolio strategy. In fact, the initial structure of our research was based on a wide study on how we learn and the way our brain works when learning new things, the difference between the masters and novices, what we need to learn to become effective, efficient learners, and also to enjoy studying. 

Sofia Colabella 16:57

So my answer is that the long term benefit is really how to enjoy learning and studying and building new knowledge upon the one that is already there. That's basically how students can categorise also problems to find new solutions. That's also the take home message after having gone through the ePortfolio task.

Kristina Hoeppner 17:20

What surprised you during the project? 

Sofia Colabella 17:23

Well, at a certain point, I was surprised to acknowledge that the common saying that our prior knowledge again determines the quality of our problem solving was kind of really sparking new light on also the way I understood, for example, how chess masters manage and construe chess problems. I'm a chess lover and before this research, I didn't think about how chess masters' knowledge is different from that of beginners, and how this process can be applied to almost any other cognitive process. 

Sofia Colabella 17:57

The interesting thing is that masters work faster than beginners, but also they tackle problems in a different way. Because what you know determines what you see, right? So the fact is that the board is seen differently from a master and a beginner. The other thing is that chess masters quickly recognise a particular chess position and then determine subsequent moves based on that prior experience. The same applies to doctors with a new patient, and so on and so forth. 

Sofia Colabella 18:25

The fact is, the experts have both more knowledge and better knowledge. Rich knowledge can be built by also recognising what were the initial steps and moving on, forth and back from the initial state to connecting all the dots. That's the real importance of the mapping exercise that is not only seeing the pattern. it's recognising the patterns and then creating the links between all of them.

Kristina Hoeppner 18:54

Alberto, what surprised you during the project?

Alberto Pugnale 18:57

Well, on top of what Sofia said, which was very surprising because I think it's worth mentioning that our participants were high achieving students, they were students we knew well, and we wanted to get them involved because we thought that, you know, they would get a lot out of them. So it was very curious to see how would students struggle with a task that it's apparently very simple. But at the end of the day, we all struggle with that even academics when they have to do their own annual reviews, or they have to think about future projects. It's so difficult, you know, despite having done this job for many years. 

Alberto Pugnale 19:30

But what surprised me the most is primarily that I knew very little about my own students. Again, we're talking about students we had before in previous subjects and not students that were new to us; students we thought we knew. But at the end of the day, we knew nothing about what they were doing outside university, their, you know, sports, activities, engagement with societies and clubs, or any other things they were doing, including music, hobbies, travel, previous experience. 

Alberto Pugnale 20:03

Most of our students at the University of Melbourne come from overseas or are not local, and the percentage of international students is very high. We cannot forget that is definitely something we need to preserve, and we need to highlight. In our current, let's say normal, conventional teaching settings, we consider all of our students as the same, right? We don't really know where they come from, why they decided to come to Melbourne, and you know, these sort of things. So it was very interesting to discuss with them about their own story, ambitions, doubts, questions because there are so many things that students deliberately exclude from what they tell us. Through their assignments, they don't show anything of their own personality because there is an expectation that they showcase knowledge, skills, and they meet the certain learning outcomes. 

Alberto Pugnale 21:00

But when we got to talk to them, I had the feeling I was talking to a person. That was so satisfying because I don't believe that our university in the way it's teaching currently, and this is not only the University of Melbourne, I believe it's across the board, all universities, we don't really consider our students as persons. And if the class is a very large as in the case of our undergraduate where you can have 100, 200, or 300 students, it's very difficult to get that sense of cohort and to get to know each other. So it was really, really satisfying to know what your students do outside universities, and you have so many ideas on how they could use that potential and those interests to develop themselves. Most of the students haven't really thought about that, about using their own personal interests as something they could use to their own advantage. 

Kristina Hoeppner 21:53

Have, you already had the chance now to think about how you can bring in that relationship building, that making your students feel more welcome because their histories, their culture is being taken into consideration how to integrate that into your courses so that they can bring in their full personalities?

Alberto Pugnale 22:13

The class size for us is a very big challenge. The fact that we have to give lectures in settings where there are far too many students, and also I would say most students now are used to lecture recordings, and they find that very appealing and convenient. So it's one challenge after the other that we are trying to solve. So it's becoming more and more difficult to engage with our students and get to know them. 

Alberto Pugnale 22:38

In a way, we want to become role models for them. We want to express our opinions strongly, how we want them to react to that. This cannot happen unless we're all sitting in the same room, and we are in that lecture setting. However, there is another initiative that a university started a couple of years ago, which is called Academic Advising. As academics, we are all are located to a number of students each semester, and we are supposed to be their advisers. So we meet with them every semester, and we have to discuss with them whatever concern they might have. It could be personal issues, it could be how they deal with their study plans, what to do in the future, how to look for a job. 

Alberto Pugnale 23:20

Sofia and I believe that academic advising would be a great venue to introduce some of the concepts we developed through the ePortfolio project in order to have some conversations that are a little bit more structured. So sometimes you feel like you're talking to a student, but you don't really know what to ask them, perhaps they don't know how you can be useful to them, and then you develop a very generic conversation, and perhaps they don't really know how to use you as an advisor or as a mentor. So I think we want that programme to be a little bit more structured, and we believe the ePortfolio conversation interview would be a great way to do that.

Kristina Hoeppner 23:58

That has been done to a degree at the University of Luxembourg where in a Bachelor in Educational Sciences, the students are assigned an advisor, by now an advising team, and they look at the portfolio of the student and they talk about the portfolio with his students, therefore then also getting to know them a bit better. Their student numbers are also increasing. They're not quite yet for every lecture or for every course at your levels, but it's definitely getting there. That I think it can definitely be a huge challenge. 

Kristina Hoeppner 24:30

One of the digital ethics principles in ePortfolios that the AAEEBL Task Force of which I'm a member has been created was on DEIBD, diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and decolonisation. When we did interviews of scholars and just also people not involved in portfolio practice, this aspect, Alberto that you had been talking about, of getting to know your students has been one of the very important ones there as well. That is probably something that we as a portfolio community can and will and have to discuss more in the future of how we can support that relationship building so that students feel welcomed that students can bring in their whole self and do not have to feel like that they need to leave part outside so that they can finish their study programme. Sofia, is there anything that you'd like to add?

Sofia Colabella 25:26

Yeah, I completely agree with you. It's wonderful. I don't like the idea that students feel that kind of barrier. They know what to ask, but even if they don't, they don't dare. Having a tool that makes it easier to have a conversation that goes beyond the usual barriers would be really great. It's the only way we can support our students in their learning journey, but also to understand the rules and what they can achieve, the resources they have. 

Kristina Hoeppner 25:54

So now that leaves me with the last question before our quick answer round: where to from here for the two of you?

Alberto Pugnale 26:01

I think there is a lot that we did through the ePortfolio project that can be reapplied to solve other issues. For example, in the last three years, there is no doubt, that lecture attendance, cohort appearance has become a challenge. It was a challenge before COVID, but we didn't realise how problematic it was until we got to 2022, and we realised that our students prefer to have everything online. That really is in the way, let's say, to have a conversation, to talk, to get to know each other, it's really an exchange of knowledge and information. 

Alberto Pugnale 26:38

Let's imagine that the university has its own personality space, and it's not a way to experience the University of Melbourne because any university can provide you with that online experience. So why enrolling at the University of Melbourne if you don't experience the campus, if you don't get to know the teachers, if you don't go and have lunch in the nice places around the campus, and all of that, and you meet other international students like you perhaps? 

Alberto Pugnale 27:02

So I think the biggest challenge for me now, and it could be in a way complementary to what Sofia is doing is to deal with the lecture. At the moment, we are running interactive lecture series with live polling, but we're also thinking about renaming the lecture as a master class. So we want the lecture to become something different. The lectures are pre recorded, and in the lecture theatre, we do something else. We chat, we discuss, we look at previous student works, we want to hear from the students what they do. We develop mind maps with the students, and that is proven to be very useful. As you would expect the students ask for a template, and we said "There is no template because you're all different. There is no template we want you to fit in." That's exactly why the task is interesting. Even though it was a very small task, it was the most fascinating because the results were unpredictable. 

Alberto Pugnale 27:56

Whenever you provide students with too much guidance and templates, of course, they perform very well, but the results are also more predictable. In this case, I think, I will continue to work on getting to know my students more through exercises of this kind, to try to develop occasions to talk with them and let them question what they're studying apart from, you know, simply getting the marks the grades and move on which is definitely what they have to do, but not only.

Kristina Hoeppner 28:26

What is next for you, Sofia? 

Sofia Colabella 28:28

Well, while Alberto is facing the lecture issue, I have been trialling new forms of tutorial activities, and I designed an activity that is the treasure hunt. There I designed to build authentic activities supporting self reflections and also to improve and diversify formative and summative assessments and provide students with more opportunities to engage with their peers, but also with their tutor. Basically students express their reflections on the subject content, on the lecture content. They should develop their capacity to find the relevant pieces of information to fulfil the task. So it's just the treasure hunt, and also have the capacity to connect lectures, assignments, and learning resources critically. 

Sofia Colabella 29:15

Students usually work in teams and individually and then they debate together as a class about their answers. In some cases, there is no really one right or wrong answer is just thinking about, okay, so this is the issue, how we can tackle this besides issue that comes from the lecture for example. Basically, it's a way to maximise opportunities to interact, establish connections with peers, and develop a strong sense of cohort and cultural belonging at the same time. 

Sofia Colabella 29:44

Again, the fact is, I am really keen to let them appreciate the idea of pattern recognitions. So once a map or pattern has been placed in context and developed, there are high chances of finding a possible solution to the task, whatever the task is. So that's where I think the ePortfolio is most valuable, but also this small activity, the treasure hunt can prepare them for the biggest challenge.

Kristina Hoeppner 30:11

I look forward to learning more about that because I can also imagine that there's going to be really good visualisations around to make it interesting for the students, keep them on track, and guide them through their activities. Thank you so much for sharing your ideas of what you want to do next. 

Kristina Hoeppner 30:26

Now to the last three quick questions, and I'd like both of you to answer them. So let's start with Sofia for the first one. Which three words or short phrases do you use to describe portfolio work?

Sofia Colabella 30:41

I'd say the first is attitude towards change, reflection, of course, stealing that from Alberto, and connection.

Kristina Hoeppner 30:49

And Alberto, what are they for you?

Alberto Pugnale 30:51

Well, I'm going back to what I said earlier. So I think for me, it's really a tool to enable communication between teacher and student. The ePortfolio, it's almost a facilitator for that conversation to happen. At the same time, it's a great tool to visualise what you've done and to communicate it to others.

Kristina Hoeppner 31:10

Since we have both of you here, we actually get twice the number of tips for learning designers and instructors who create portfolio activities. What is your top tip for them, Alberto?

Alberto Pugnale 31:23

I think don't focus too much on a specific task with deliverables and assessment criteria. That's far too conventional. I would say, and this is going to be very, very unconventional, don't even focus on assessment. Just ask your students to do something without templates, just get to talk to them, and you will be very surprised with the outcomes. You will find a way to assess them, but I think, but the rest should be a degree of let's say ingenuity, it has to be spontaneous, it has to be free, it has to be out of the ordinary. That is what develops surprise, novelty, and innovation, I think.

Kristina Hoeppner 32:02

Let's see who is going to take you up on the challenge to throw out the template and let the student tell them what they're doing and then form the assessment out of it. Sofia, what is your tip for learning designers and instructors?

Sofia Colabella 32:16

Aligned with what Alberto said, actually, reflections are so connected to being open and curious and ready to reconsider long-held ideas about the world, about knowledge, about ourselves.

Kristina Hoeppner 32:31

The last question there is for our portfolio authors. What tips do you have for them, be that your students or maybe also fellow colleagues who are creating their portfolios?

Alberto Pugnale 32:44

In my view, I would say 'be like an architect', when you get the design brief, don't respond to the brief, just do what you think, just forget about the brief and do your own design. I think the same should apply to portfolios. You're given some template, instructions, forget about all of that, and do whatever you like. It's something difficult, you know, working without boundaries, without guidelines, it's very complicated because you are required to reframe the brief that was given to you. 

Alberto Pugnale 33:11

So in a way, architects create a lot of problems, you know, with their designs that have to be solved. But through that creation of problems, there are interesting things that if they're solved correctly, work well. They can allow us to enjoy incredible spaces. And the same could apply to students, if they're able to reframe the task that was given to them, then something very interesting can happen. So I would say it's hard to be unbiased, but it is possible to forget about distractions you were given. You know, don't work for a certain expectation. The teacher will have some expectation, then the students will try to fulfil that expectation, and I think you should not fulfil that expectation. You should do what you want.

Kristina Hoeppner 33:52

I'm not going to ask a follow-up question here because that would be interview now number two for us since that is a separate topic and a wonderful one. I'd probably like to have a couple of other people in that conversation as well so that we can see well, how could that work and also look at could that work in larger classes? Would that only work in smaller classes? What could that look like? And maybe somebody will even take you up on having a research project with you to explore that further and see what could come out of it. 

Alberto Pugnale 34:21

Sounds great. 

Kristina Hoeppner 34:23

What is your tip for the students, Sofia?

Sofia Colabella 34:26

Well, not to be afraid of the massive amount of work that is needed to fulfil the task. You know, reflection is rigorous, disciplined, and a systematic activity. But in the end, there is always creativity. And beauty is everywhere. We take the time to notice that. So the pattern recognition once again, applies also to the fact that creativity can be found everywhere. So yeah, don't be too afraid of the task, even if it looks like it's giant.

Kristina Hoeppner 34:55

That is a wonderful finish to our conversation today. Thank you so much, Dr Sofia Colabella and Dr Alberto Pugnale, for this conversation around your use of portfolios in an architecture programme.

Sofia Colabella 35:09

Thank you for having us. 

Alberto Pugnale 35:10

Thank you.

Kristina Hoeppner 35:12

Now over to our listeners. What do you want to try in your own portfolio practice? This was 'Create. Share. Engage.' with Dr Sofia Colabella and Dr Alberto Pugnale. Head to our website where you can find resources and the transcript for this episode. This podcast is produced by Catalyst IT, and I'm your host Kristina Hoeppner, Project Lead and Product Manager of the portfolio platform Mahara. Our next episode will air in two weeks. I hope you'll listen again and tell a colleague about it so they can subscribe. Until then, create, share, and engage.

Why portfolios?
Goal of the architecture design ePortfolio research project
What were some outcomes of the project?
Templates / identities
What are long term benefits of creating the design ePortfolio?
What surprised you?
How can you build relationships with students?
What's next?
Q&A: Three words / phrases to describe portfolio work
Q&A: A tip for learning designers or instructors
Q&A: A tip for learners