Learning and Teaching

Our Learning and Teaching Approaches

2 photos of students at work in the studios and 1 of a student sketching outsideThe department uses a diverse range of teaching and learning approaches. These centre upon self-directed projects supported by formal lectures, small group seminars, group and individual tutorials, digital design studios, focussed workshops and field trips. We are committed to strong support for students by means of studio tutorials, where staff enter critical dialogue and discussion with students. There are opportunities within projects to develop specialised and personal interests, especially in the later years of courses.

Central to the department´s teaching strategy are the design studios, where we cultivate a creative process by providing facilities for drawing, IT teaching and discussion. Importantly, studios are also places where students can meet, exchange ideas and collaborate on group projects in a relaxed setting. Computers are now also a central part of landscape practice. They enable students to access and process digital information using GIS (geographical information systems) software and through using CAD (computer aided design), and to present their proposals to a professional standard. All students take compulsory courses in CAD, with subsequent opportunities to develop skills in Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign, GIS (ArcView), Sketchup and Simmetry 3D. Our IT strategy is frequently reviewed to reflect the needs of the profession.

All students have 24 hour access to CAD, wordprocessing and email facilities. As well as the university facilities the department has its own computer rooms, and places a high priority on developing and upgrading these facilities.

Field trips are also an essential component of our degrees. They complement and inform the academic curriculum, as well as being memorable social events. Across the years at Sheffield we aim to introduce students to a range of excellent and challenging examples of landscape architecture both in Britain and internationally. Along with day trips from the department, we also organise residential field trips, including an extended visit to a European city which studies a wide range of sites and issues over a period of 5-7 days in either July or September. Recent trips have visited Amsterdam, Berlin, Copenhagen, Barcelona and Paris. We do our best to ensure that these trips are affordable.

Additional residential visits in recent years have included studies of urban design, historic gardens, ecological habitats, city centres and recreational landscapes, in settings as varied as North Wales, London, Liverpool, Kent, Newcastle and Birmingham.

Developing your skills of visual creativity, expression and problem-solving

At Sheffield we believe that places should be designed well. We therefore place a strong emphasis on developing your skills of visual creativity, expression and problem-solving. However, we also believe that in order to be successful, a landscape needs to `work´ socially, economically, culturally and environmentally. So, you will also learn how to understand the complexity of landscapes in order to produce solutions that are sustainable. You will be equipped with the knowledge to work through questions such as:

  • will this landscape retain interest throughout the seasons?
  • will the design materials and construction methods prove robust?
  • is the landscape safe and accessible to potential users, such as children and people with disabilities?
  • does the landscape respect the traditions and needs of local ethnic communities?
  • will the landscape provide a home and a movement network for native animals, birds and insects?
  • will the landscape store and recirculate water, and help to purify it?
  • how can the long-term maintenance costs of a landscape be reduced and how will they be paid for?
  • how do people experience the landscape, and does it provide them with a ‘sense of place’?
  • how does the landscape relate to surrounding buildings and the wider area?

As you can see, we present you with complex challenges so that you acquire a wide range of useful knowledge and skills to enable you to improve people´s quality of life. We require you to understand theoretical contexts as well as develop practical skills. During the course, therefore, you will become more visually aware of your surroundings and cultivate critical creative skills. You will develop a keen insight into the contribution that design can make to the quality of places, as well as a sensitivity to the ways in which culture has influenced design and how people´s cultural backgrounds influence their appreciation of places.

Core Skills

Our courses are designed to train people for a demanding professional context, while recognising that some of our graduates will eventually move into other career directions.

We ensure that our teaching supports development of both core professional abilities and transferable skills that characterise a ‘Sheffield Graduate’. So while we will help you develop professional competencies and build a personal portfolio of project work, you will also sharpen ‘all-rounder’ written, verbal and visual communication skills. Confidence, adaptability and innovation are all key attributes that we hope will develop through your undergraduate years, and will stand you in good stead wherever you decide to work.

An insight in specific knowledge, abilities and values can be seen by browsing module titles, aims and objectives, but the lists below give an overview.

Summary of core skills for the landscape profession Key transferable skills
  • Creative design approaches
  • Working effectively in teams
  • Design theory and history
  • Use of initiative
  • Site survey and analysis
  • Creative problem solving
  • Social and cultural aspects of design
  • Presentation Skills
  • Urban and rural regeneration
  • Research and analytical approaches
  • Ecological approaches and habitat restoration
  • Structuring and writing reports
  • Planting design and restoration
  • Confidence with a range of IT applications: CAD, graphic design and presentation
  • Planting design and specification
  • Adaptable and flexible approaches to projects
  • Industry specific IT
  • Working to deadlines
  • Environmental Assessment
  • Verbal presentation/Public speaking
  • Landscape planning strategies
  • Contracts and practice law