Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Tony Fetherston


This thesis presents a research study that investigated student learning in a mentor supported design office situation, using a cognitive apprenticeship learning approach that utilised authentic design project tusks. In this study, 29 final year Technical And Further Education (TAFE) building design students undertook authentic building design projects with expert building designers, who acted as mentors, in commercial design office situations. The mentors guided student learning by using a cognitive apprenticeship approach to learning, implemented with authentic design projects designed to replicate the everyday culture of practice activities typical of commercial design office operations. This study follows the progress of these students as they worked in collaboration with their mentors in the design and presentation of design solutions developed for the projects. Data about the students' learning experiences in this setting were collected and analysed to determine their learning outcomes, the kinds of knowledge acquired and the means through which knowledge was transferred in the study situation. A holistic interpretivistic approach was used to collect data in three phases. The first of these was a pilot-study with the other two phases providing the main data gathering parts of the study. Much of the focus of the third phase of this study was on verifying findings emergent from analysis of data collected in the first two phases, as well as seeking greater understanding of the study phenomena. Throughout each of the three phases, data were collected from multiple sources, which included interviews, direct observations, personal journals and drawings. Analysis of the data showed that using cognitive apprenticeship learning methods organised around mentor supported authentic projects implemented in authentic commercial design office situations provided successful transfer of declarative, tacit and procedural knowledge from the mentor to the students. This thesis concludes with recommendations for the classroom application of cognitive apprenticeship learning methods, as used by the expert building designers who participated in this research.

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