A game-based learning approach to building conservation education in UK : undergraduate built environment degrees
Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis
Across the globe, the historic (built) environment is counted among a country's most precious cultural commodities, which despite its popularity remains exceptionally vulnerable and in constant danger of deterioration and decay. Due to an unusually high density of historic structures in need of protection coupled with a strong property and construction sector, this issue is more prominent in the UK than in other developed country. Built environment professionals regularly encounter historic and protected structures in their professional practice and exhibit a general tendency towards principle support of the concept of conservation. Nonetheless, the heritage discourse and with it the discussion of architectural conservation principles, issues and implications in relation to other built environment professions is, by and large, woefully absent from formal professional education at the tertiary level. This thesis investigated various forms of conservation education in respect to their nature and extent in the context of UK undergraduate built environment degrees in a mixed-methods research approach. The findings suggest that while practitioners as well as educationalists and building conservation specialists all agree to the importance of conservation to both cultural fabric and built environment sector, neither shows concrete tendencies to introduce the heritage discourse into (built environment) higher education on a wide scale. Conservationists prefer to focus their heritage appreciation programmes on young children, while practitioners and built environment educationalists claim building conservation education to be of little relevance to their professional education. In between, the average built environment student is released into professional practice woefully unprepared for encounters with historic, let alone protected structures. This thesis proposes to include adult learners at tertiary level into the built heritage discourse on a much wider scale by suggesting the development of a curriculum for novice conservation education and a subsequent Conservation Game as a custom-created digital teaching and learning tool building on the principles of experiential and game-based learning to be implemented in higher education institutions across the UK. Modelled on Dawid W. Shaffer's Epistemic Games, the theoretic and conceptional background behind the Conservation Game is laid out as an interactive and engaging simulation of conservation practice to introduce conservation novices to concept and practice in a risk free, fun environment with the aim to increase baseline building conservation understanding and appreciation in young UK built environment practitioners.
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