Research Methods

Research Methods Class monograph
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To download a pdf copy of my Methods and Theory Courses teaching portfolio click here.

The Architecture 585 Research Methods class serves graduate and upper-level undergraduate students. It is a hands-on course where students explore familiar, everyday, and ordinary cultural landscapes. They ask appropriate questions, test tactics of data gathering, analyze various kinds of information, and situate their project within a larger social, political, and environmental context. I have been teaching this class since the beginning of my teaching career and have developed the contents of the class over a period of eight years. Many class sessions take place in the field. I teach this course with an interdisciplinary focus and invite faculty colleagues to lead workshops in their area of specialty. In this class, individual buildings are studied as part of a larger landscape. The emphasis on applicability helps graduate students prepare for their theses.

The success of this class can be measured by increased enrollment and student productivity. The number of students taking this class grew from seven (five doctoral and two graduate students) in 2007 to 25 graduate students by 2010. Students from the Architecture 585 class have presented their class research at academic forums such as the Urban Studies Forum and the Midwest Interdisciplinary Graduate Student Conference (Caitlin Boyle, 2008, Sara Khorshidifard, 2008, Keith Stachowiak, 2009). A student explains how the class influenced him:

“I think that the methods class was an excellent way to spark the initial notion of what a thesis project could be based on. … After finding that it was architecture’s relationship to social, economic and environmental justice, I was able to create a project that would allow me to explore these issues and connect them to real-life tangible research and issues. Now at the end of my thesis, I can see that it made my project much better. …  My project is clear in its mission, and supports it design aesthetic with a larger idea—one that relates to real problems, and suggests ways to change them … without the methods class my thesis would have been very sophisticated about design BUT NOT sophisticated in thinking about why we design. It is the WHY, that I gained from the more careful research at the very beginning of my thesis.”[1]

When I began teaching at UW-Milwaukee, I taught the architectural theory course Arch 751. This class developed into a new course titled Architecture 790: Practicum in Buildings-Landscapes-Cultures. This class is required coursework for students enrolled in the Buildings-Landscapes-Cultures area within the doctoral program. It is the most interdisciplinary graduate and doctoral-level course offered by the Department of Architecture.[2]

My primary goal is to teach theory to graduate students by showing its applicability in everyday life and situations.[3] I have adopted a “peripatetic mode of Socratic questioning” as we use classroom settings as case studies to test theories and their applicability.

As one student explained, the class content

“provided another application of the material we have been reading.  Our meetings at Roast [a local cafe] does the same thing. … I just feel that when we can apply all of this information/knowledge/academic intellectual exercises to something tangible in reality it sticks better.  … Your class is like the grand canyon—each week we only look at one layer.”[4]

On May 7, 2010, students presented their term papers in the final Architecture 790 class symposium attended and highly praised by scholars from area nonprofit Historic Milwaukee, UW-Milwaukee’s Golda Meir Library and several departments and programs, including Art, Art History, Landscape Architecture, Architecture, and Public History. [5] 

To download a pdf copy of my Methods and Theory Courses teaching portfolio click here.


[1] Email from Adam Flickinger, April 17, 2008.

[2] In 2010, this class had 5 students from UW Madison (three enrolled and two auditing; students came from UW Madison’s Geography and Art History Departments) and five students from UW Milwaukee (4 students from Architecture, one graduate student from English). For the multi-disciplinary reading list for this class, see attached syllabus.

[3] While planning this course, I was mindful of “applicability.” I emphasized the importance of critically evaluating our scholarly and ideological presumptions. I encouraged students to resist the temptation and seduction of –isms while interrogating why different theories use different reasoning and evidence, and how different perspectives borrow from diverse genealogies of historical thought.

[4] Unsolicited email communication, Matthew Porges, Graduate Student, April 27, 2008.

[5] Attendees represented various departments: Art (Max Yela), material culture (Anna Andrzejewski, Madison; Jon Prown, Chipstone Foundation), Landscape Architecture and Folklore (Janet Gilmore), Architecture (Gerald Weisman, Harry Van Oudenallen, Christine Scott-Thomson, and others), Public History (Jasmine Alinder), and Historic Milwaukee (Frank Matusinec) and others. Jasmine Alinder, Associate Professor and Coordinator of the Public History program at UWM, wrote, “I am really impressed with the BLC program. The students are fantastic, and I am really excited about their work. I hope I can play a more active role in the program in the future.”

A more detailed list of responses from attending scholars is attached with the Architecture 790 student work and syllabus.