site builder

Learning from A4LE Student Design Competitions: What are Good Learning Environments and How Do We Make Them


A4LE has been facilitating a student design competition for architecture students for the past ten years. During these years, Virginia Tech professors Elizabeth Grant and Mario Cortes guided students in this competition four times, and Elizabeth Grant continued participation with her design laboratory for five more. Year after year, the students bring their personal experiences together with their design skills to respond to a wide range of design programs for K-12 schools. Rachel Pampel has been working with Professor Grant and her students from Virginia Tech for the past three competitions as a continuation of her award-winning master’s thesis; her research asks two important questions –

  • How can we better support educational designers through trainings and workshops?
  • What can we learn from the A4LE design competitions and the projects chosen as winners?
The presentation will give a brief overview of the training process and current trends in education design, then dive into the history and themes of the design competitions, and finally zoom in on this past year’s competition and share an in-depth look at last year’s winning projects and the process by which they were developed. As we come to understand how crucial student input is to the success of school design projects, the A4LE Student Design Competition has the capacity and potential to become a rich testing ground and catalyst for innovative design thinking. Hopefully, by sharing the details of the competition on an all-East Coast stage, other chapters will be inspired to start their own competitions and the South East chapter will be inspired to leverage their existing competitions to the fullest.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Attendees will understand and be able to apply the format of an educational design workshop based on the case studies shared.
  2. Attendees will understand and be able to apply the themes of good learning environments A4LE jurors have found important throughout the history of the design competition.
  3. Attendees will have the knowledge and resources needed to leverage the format and resources of existing student design competitions to create more opportunities for innovation and discovery.
  4. Attendees will have the knowledge and resources needed to plan further student design competitions.


Rachel Pampel

ALEP Candidate
Independent Researcher

Emma Lineberry

Research Assistant
Virginia Tech Student


March 18-20, 2021   Washington, D.C.

Follow Us