The key to my engagement? Collaborative working

As I studied a regular (one year) Master’s degree in architecture alongside classmates studying for their two-year MArchD (part of the architecture accreditation process), it meant I had the opportunity to collaborate with students who were doing immensely different modules to myself. Many aspects of our modules interlinked with one another and I found a lot of value in exchanging information and knowledge gained from our own modules. In this article I describe how my experiences with working collaboratively, both in-person and online, enhanced my engagement as a student and prepared me for my career.

The role of the environment in fostering collaborative working

The sharing and exchange of knowledge between my colleagues and I was supported by a collaborative studio environment. Having this space enabled groups of different students to form naturally, making it conducive for the exchange of a diverse range of ideas and academic knowledge. The ease at which we were able to form different groups also contributed to opportunities for social interaction and peer support, which I believe are immensely important to help students engage in their course, academically and otherwise.

Whilst the studio environment provided a fantastic platform for these collaborations to occur, there were many other spaces on campus, such as the library and the University’s cafés, that supported the gathering of me and my colleagues for collaborative work. Often, the groups would change throughout the day which meant that you would get a range of inputs from other students as the day progressed. This also gave us the wonderful opportunity to admire the work of fellow students and offer advice or encouragement to pursue an idea; often giving them a much-needed confidence boost as the work was often complex and demanding. 

Crucially, collaborative working is not dependent on being physically present; it is possible to benefit from the immense utility of collaboration even when studying remotely. For example, my classmates and I were able to maintain the collaborative nature of our work through the national lockdowns due to Covid-19. This demonstrates the power of collaborative working and how it can encourage student engagement and positive academic outcomes even during extremely challenging situations.

Impact on me

The building of strong social and academic-based friendships was crucial to maintaining wellbeing and my engagement with the course. Indeed, while some groups were the result of allocated group work, many of these collaborations formed naturally. Furthermore, it is important to recognise that disagreements are perhaps an inevitable aspect of working with others. I believe, however, that these moments of friction help you to formulate your thoughts more concretely and develop confidence in your own ideas—the latter being extremely important in a profession such as architecture. Certainly, my experiences of collaborative working in my course have prepared me well for my career. These collaborative situations replicate those which one would likely experience in an architecture career, and indeed in other professions.

Advice for other students

Be open to working with new and different people as you will never know what you might gain from their experiences. Additionally, the academic and social connections you make can act as social support systems—don’t forget that they can help with your wellbeing and engagement with the course.