Taxonomy of intellectual complexity

An adaptation of Bloom’s Taxonomy was utilised. The taxonomy categorised thinking from lower to higher order, thereby providing a valuable frame of reference for the specific evaluation of professional competence aligned to the respective NQF level descriptors. Note well that Scope of Knowledge pertaining to the NQF level descriptors does not mean the same as Knowledge on Bloom’s Taxonomy.

The proposed RPL model adapts the taxonomy in the following ascending sequence:

Level 1: Knowledge/Understanding

Level 2: Application

Level 3: Analysis

Level 4: Evaluation

Level 5: Synthesis/Creation

Architectural assessment has been widely criticised for being too subjective, especially in that clear responses/feedback on shortcomings of a design project are difficult to explain due to an inherently subjective approach in design. I argue that a subjective approach is part of the student’s design process, formed by a method of inquiry into the architectural problem, that combines objective analysis with a subjective approach based on the filters of interpretation formed through lived experiences. The assessment of design competence, however, cannot be subjective; it is to be as objective as possible to ensure fairness and quality. Clearly defined assessment criteria are therefore necessary to identify areas of strengths and weaknesses of a design project.

Categorisation of professional competence

The constructive alignment of exit-level outcomes with taxonomy creates a level of complexity which can be adapted into a framework for the evaluation of professional competency. This is critical to professional articulation while assuring quality of competence.

Table 8.2 illustrates the types of learning for the architectural design competency in relation to taxonomy. It provides an example of how a scope of practice outcome is evaluated by comparatively matching the respective NQF exit-level outcomes with the taxonomy of intellectual complexity.

All 10 SACAP professional competencies can be similarly assessed by the constructive alignment of the respective professional skill sets to the NQF exit-level descriptors. This matching of intellectual levels with professional competence forms the basis of constructive alignment of RPL assessment to the respective NQF levels and professional competence. The constructive alignment of RPL assessment is based on diversity and pedagogic inclusivity; therefore, the evaluation of competencies requires different types of evidence of learning related to taxonomy; refer to Table 8.3.

The rigour of RPL assessment is of utmost importance to assure quality and standards of knowledge, skill and competence of RPL candidates. At the same time, the evaluation of knowledge and skills must be fair and consistent and would therefore consider a broader scope of assessment to include informal, lived and work-based experiences.

The validity of the RPL model is based on the concept of constructive alignment which translates into a relational/relative evaluation of professional competencies with the respective NQF level descriptors while the knowledge taxonomy forms an underlying framework for the categorisation of intellectual activity/thinking. These define the key variables of the RPL assessment rubric.

The reliability of the model is based on the consistency of its application. which promotes fairness and transparency. Fairness is be achieved by using clearly defined rubrics that clearly illustrate the required learning outcomes and grade scores at each NQF level/professioual designation. The model further highlights any evident gaps in knowledge, skills or competence.

Table 8.2 Alignment of taxonomy with exit-level outcomes for the Architectural Design professional competency

Core learning area/professional competency ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN



(NÇF 9) exit-level outcomes


(NQF 7) exit-level outcomes



Clearly define the design problem.

Locate the design problem within a broader body of knowledge.

Critically compare various theories and concepts that relate to the design problem.

Clearly define the design problem.

Locate tire design problem within a broader body of knowledge.

Explain various theories and concepts that relate to the design problem.


Apply advanced research methods/procedures in the collection and interpretation of data related to the design problem.

Clearly articulate the conceptual framework underpinning the design.

Communicate resear ch and design innovatively to optimally express the architectural design response.

Apply basic research methods procedures in the collection and interpretation of data related to the design problem.

Clearly explain the conceptual framework underpinning the design.

Communicate research and design to effectively express the architectural design response.


Critically analyse infoimatioivdata in order to define the appropriate challenges and informants of design.

Analyse and organise informatiorvdata in order to identify the relevant design principles.


Critically review design principles/drivers against the design problem.

Reconrmend research-led, alternative design responses.

Review the design conceptual drivers intent against the design problem to propose a responsive design intent.


Synthesise research data in order to produce a responsive design strategy.

Develop innovative solutions that enhance the spatial, technological and cultural value of the design.

Integrate research data into a responsive design. Develop informed solutions that enhance the spatial and technological value of the design.

74 An RPL evaluation model

Table 8.3 Types of assessment aligned to taxonomy


Evidence of learning


Journals/Sketchbooks of Observation and Reflection

Joumals/sketchbooks allow the learner to continuously record their observations, perceptions and understanding of architecture. These journals would promote a culture of continuous/lifelong learning thr ough lived experiences beyond the formal learning environment, which deepens the process of enquiry and understanding, through critical observation.


Conceptual Framework/Thesis/Esquisse/Design Intent

The understanding of the situated problem requires the application of relevant theory' and discourse as lenses through which data is interpreted/to propose an intent, a conceptual idea cognitive esquisse to form an attitude/position in relation to the architectural problem.


Literature Review, Precedent Study Contextual Analysis and Case Studies

By far, most of the understanding of the architectural problem and the broader context thereof happens through analysis of literature, precedent, site context and case studies. This process deepens the understanding of the problem within its broader intellectual, socio-economic and environmental contexts.


A comparative evaluation of the findings, through inquiry and analysis, to select the most relevant information in relation to the design problem in order to define the design intent drivers/ principles.


Design Portfolio (Theoretical/Conceptual Process + Design Development)

This is the complex integration of all the relevant information into a responsive architectural design project.

The largest proportion of architectural assessment is generally at the level of synthesis, due to the complex and integrated nature of the architectural design project process.

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