Dr Andrew Hoolachan, Lecturer in Planning, University of Glasgow
Dr Alison McCandlish- Lecturer in City Planning, Acting Programme Director for MSc City Planning and MSc City Planning & Real Estate Development, University of Glasgow
Walking as pedagogy: Tackling urban issues through experiential learning
Spatial Planning Strategies on the City Planning MSc is a capstone module in which students apply their learning from other modules to a single problem, how to transform an area of a city over a 30 year period. Working in groups of around 6 to 8, students create a professional report that communicates this vision. Crucial to this module is engagement with the world ‘out there’. As these students will become urban planners, understanding cities from lived experience is vital in creating appropriate aims of objectives of their plan.
The problem set is always a live issue. Following COP26 in November 2021, students of the 2022 cohort were given the task of reimagining Glasgow without the M8 motorway. The M8 presents a typical planning challenge of overcoming a particular planning paradigm from the past, that no longer works for urban liveability today and requires new approaches to understanding the city. As such, students were taken on a guided walk around the M8, taking pictures, notes and reflecting on how they felt as they experienced the city. In 2023, students will be given the same task, but we will ask them to reflect on their encounters in a survey to capture their thoughts and feelings to show the value of learning in the field.
As part of this course we introduce students to city planning theory and key thinkers, in this instance these include the activist and writer Jane Jacobs (1906-2006) who advocated for multi-use neighbourhoods and people friendly environments (campaigning against the loss of parkland as a result of new road construction) and Patrick Geddes (1854-1932) biologist, educator and sociologist. Both Jacobs and Geddes advocated for understanding a city through walking and studying how a place worked, we think they would both be interested to see how the current “Replace the M8” campaign is forming debates around the use of space and the relationship between different land uses and the people who live, work and study in this city.
Urban planning today is a complex profession requiring the synthesis of policy reports, visual and digital data, maps and social and economic statistics. Early city planning practice has its roots in interventions to improve public health; the professional body who represent planning and accredit planning courses within the UK argue that in the current context of recovering from Covid-19 and responding to the climate crisis we have an opportunity to “Plan the World We Need” (Royal Town Planning Institute, 2020). Our joint SoTL project for 2022/3 will investigate how this experiential learning contributes to student understanding of urban challenges, as well as the alignment with the University of Glasgow attributes which help our students become “ethically and socially aware” investigative and critical thinkers (University of Glasgow, n.d.)
Royal Town Planning Institute. (2020), Plan The World We Need: The Contribution of Planning to a Sustainable, Resilient and Inclusive Recovery, London, available at: https://www.rtpi.org.uk/research/2020/june/plan-the-world-we-need/#_Toc44077178 (accessed 7 December 2022).
University of Glasgow. (n.d.). “University of Glasgow Graduate Attributes”, available at: https://www.gla.ac.uk/media/Media_183776_smxx.pdf (accessed 11 December 2022).