Collaborative drawing as a tool for creating a sense of community within NTU’s Architecture students


  • Holly Mills Nottingham Trent University
  • Jessica Payne


During the COVID-19 pandemic, students studied from home in isolation, communicating digitally through the computer.  Some students lost confidence academically, as well as socially.  Students’ wellbeing also suffered due to the challenging circumstances of the pandemic.   A community of practice (CoP) is one way of tackling this issue and building a sense of community post pandemic.  A CoP brings people together who share a passion for something they do and have a desire to further their skills alongside others with the same interest (Wenger-Trayner and Wenger-Trayner, 2015). Students get to know, trust and support each other (Laal and Ghodsi, 2012, p.817), improving the sense of belonging as students work together, consequently benefitting students’ wellbeing.

The Architecture department at Nottingham Trent University (NTU) is exploring collaborative drawing, as a community of practice to improve a sense of belonging, whilst tackling issues related to confidence, perfectionism, and wellbeing. Alongside this, they seek to encourage students to draw more by hand, a skill that is often forgotten or put to one side in favour of digital drawing.

Jessica Payne, Final year Bachelor of Architecture (BArch) student and Holly Mills, Senior Lecturer at NTU have been researching aspects of collaborative drawing together.  The collaboration between staff and student was critical as it enabled the scholarly enquiry to be centred on student engagement.

This case study focuses on one session which explored the practice and impact on learning: a ‘Cake & Draw’ workshop hosted by the Architecture Student Society in April 2023.   Using a focus group and post workshop surveys, Mills and Payne evaluated the benefits of collaborative drawing. They found that collaborative drawing enabled students to take risks, draw more fluently and accept ‘imperfect’ work. Collaborative drawing was found to expand feelings of community and increase communication between different cohorts, which in turn benefited the student’s wellbeing.

Following Mills and Payne’s scholarly enquiry, the architecture department will implement a drawing area in the studio and adapt the themes of the collaborative drawing workshops to be more closely related to the architecture course.


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Author Biographies

Holly Mills, Nottingham Trent University

Holly Mills is a Senior Lecturer in Architecture at Nottingham Trent University. Mills is currently researching ‘collaborative drawing’.

Jessica Payne

Jessica Payne is a third-year architecture student, researching collaborative drawing with Holly Mills.


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How to Cite

Mills, H., & Payne, J. (2024). Collaborative drawing as a tool for creating a sense of community within NTU’s Architecture students. Student Engagement in Higher Education Journal, 5(2), 43–56. Retrieved from



Case studies/Practice Pieces