Within the academy's curriculum, the processes of creating, researching and reflecting are inextricably linked. The academy has twenty workshops at its disposal. Some of these are for general use (for example, the computer workshop) and others are specific to particular departments (for example, the fashion or textiles workshop).

The workshops enable students to experiment with different techniques and materials and provide the opportunity to learn to use professional equipment. They form the very heart of the academy; here concepts are developed into tangible products. The research element is present across the entire curriculum: ranging from the way the education is structured to in-depth extracurricular programmes, such as the Studium Generale Rietveld Academie theory programme. In addition, every student writes a thesis in the graduation phase, challenging them to explore a specific issue in greater detail.

The Lectorate for Art & Public Space (LAPS) examines how art functions in public space and how art is made public. It also encourages students to conduct both theoretical and practical research. LAPS aims to bridge the gap between practical education and developing theory.