Introduction to TEL

Day 1: A quick introduction to learning spaces

Classrooms are a core part of universities, where students spend a significant amount of their time during their degree. As such, they have a profound impact on student – and teacher – experience. Learning spaces on Australian campuses are changing, with many universities building new and innovative classrooms that are intended to change how teaching is delivered.

In this coffee course, we will be exploring learning spaces in depth, and examining how space impacts learning. We will investigate how spaces are changing and why, and what types of learning might be possible in these new active learning spaces. In the final day of the course, we will also explore how these physical spaces relate to the digital environments used for teaching and learning.

To get started, let’s share what we mean by “learning spaces”, we invite you to take a moment and think about your experiences with classrooms and spaces at your university or campus.

Students relax in chairs in Chifley Library

Spaces for learning

A quick walk around any campus will reveal students studying and working together in a wide range of environments: cafes, libraries, sitting under a tree, or chatting online. These sort of environments are commonly referred to as “informal learning environments”.

There are also a wide range of environments where students might be learning outside of the university campus, such as internships, fieldwork, and work-integrated learning, such as the hospital environment where many medical and nursing students undertake a significant part of their study.

Though these are all “learning spaces” for the purposes of this course we will be focusing on university-managed spaces where scheduled classes are conducted.

question markDiscussion question

How have spaces impacted your teaching, or your students’ learning? Tell us about your best or worst experience in a classroom. What made it so?

Consider some of the common components of learning spaces.

  • Location on campus and building you are in
  • Size and shape of the space
  • Layout and types of furniture of the room
  • Technologies in the space and available online
  • Light, comfort, feeling of the space
  • Others?

Space matters

Literature on university spaces is relatively sparse and broad, and is a developing area of study (Ellis and Goodyear, 2016). Contemporary literature on spaces in education commonly refer to them as learning spaces (e.g., Bligh and Crook 2017, Flynn et. al. 2018). Unlike a “teaching space”, referring to “learning spaces” aligns with the broader trends which emphasise student-centred approaches to education (which you can explore in more detail in a previous post). For a detailed discussion of the theoretical aspects of the terms “learning” and “space”, see Ellis and Goodyear (2016).

Despite some university advertising suggesting that space or distance no longer matter now that you can study fully online, it is vital to acknowledge how spatial environments interact with technology and learning (Flynn et. al. 2018).

“Perhaps one of the most elementary characteristics of the nascent learning spaces literature is the argument that the material environment is, or rather should be, a core pedagogical concern.” (Bligh 2014:34)

More and more research is being conducted that highlights the powerful impact that spaces can have on student learning, grades, and overall retention, with factors such as more technology-rich environments and significant natural lighting leading to positive outcomes (for a review of this research, see Bligh and Crook 2017). The layout, seating, and orientation of a teaching space influences how staff and students receive the space’s usefulness and opportunities for different types of teaching and learning (Acton 2018).

What do these spaces “say”?

Throughout this course, we will be investigating different types of spaces common on university campuses.  To get started, let’s look at some rooms found around the ANU campus.

question markDiscussion Question

Access the Padlet

Take a look at the photos shared in the Padlet, linked above, from a range of rooms around ANU campus. Click on the plus sign in the Padlet to add photos of your own, from classrooms you regularly use. What sort of teaching and/or learning is implied for this space? (Click on the images to expand, and add comments underneath.)

References

  • Acton, R. (2018). Innovating Lecturing: Spatial Change and Staff-Student Pedagogic Relationships for Learning. Journal of Learning Spaces, 7(1). Retrieved from http://libjournal.uncg.edu/jls/article/view/1556
  • Bligh, B. (2014). Examining new processes for learning space design. In P. Temple (Ed.), The physical university: contours of space and place in higher education (International Studies in Higher Education). London: Routledge.
  • Bligh, B., & Crook, C. (2017). Learning spaces. In E. Duval, M. Sharples, & R. Sutherland (Eds.), Technology enhanced learning: research themes (pp. 69-87). Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02600-8_7
  • Ellis, R. A. and Goodyear, P. (2016), Models of learning space: integrating research on space, place and learning in higher education. Rev Educ, 4: 149-191. Available: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1002/rev3.3056
  • Flynn, P., Thompson, K., & Goodyear, P. (2018). Designing, using and evaluating learning spaces: the generation of actionable knowledge. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 34(6). doi:https://doi.org/10.14742/ajet.5091
  • Monahan, Torin. 2002. “Flexible Space & Built Pedagogy: Emerging IT Embodiments.” Inventio 4 (1): 1-19.
  • Radcliffe, D. (2009). A Pedagogy-space-technology (PST) framework for designing and evaluating learning places. In D. Radcliffe, H. Wilson, D. Powell, & B. Tibbetts (Eds.). Learning spaces in higher education: Positive outcomes by design. Brisbane, Qld: The University of Queensland and the Australian Learning and Teaching Council. Available: https://epubs.scu.edu.au/tlc_pubs/185/

 

44 thoughts on “Day 1: A quick introduction to learning spaces

  1. Hi everyone! Welcome to the first day of this coffee course! I’m one of the facilitators and am very much looking forward to hearing all about your experiences. As someone who has often struggled with making the room arrangement work for the lesson I have planned, I’m keen to find out what has worked for you and what hasn’t worked. I’m hoping we can all learn from each other and generate some good discussions on this topic!

  2. Ten years ago I gave up teaching in a classroom, and moved my teaching online. The problem was cramped steep lecture theaters, which made me feel like I was at the bottom of a well, and tutorial rooms where all the desks faced the front, like a 19th century school room.

    For ten years I looked at attempts at interactive rooms, but these were wasteful of space, had tech which got in the way of the teaching, did not work, made it difficult, or dangerous, to move around the room. What I found best was a rectangular room with a flat floor, and furniture we could move, plus the standard A/V set-up, with sound, screens and WiFi. This could be as small as a tutorial room for a few dozen students, up to the ANU’s temporary teaching rooms, where I helped with an interactive class for 330 students (a little cramped, but exciting to teach in).

    Last Monday I took part in a workshop on interactive learning in the ANU Marie Reay Teaching Centre. This is a six story hi-tech wooden building which opened that morning, purpose designed for flexible learning with group work. There is an open staircase, with adjacent informal space for students, then classrooms around the outside. The classrooms have glass walls to the central areas, flat floors and retracting room dividers. There are flip top tables on wheels.

    What I liked was that all the rooms in the Marie Reay Teaching Centre were rectangular, without any gimmicks. Many institutions install round, or oval shaped rooms, in an attempt to improve interaction, but these waste space and make it difficult to place desks and screens. Also institutions tend to want a tech-gimmick, such as a 3D room, or a giant ultra-high definition screen wall. These tend to be break, or are decommissioned after a few months, when the novelty wears off. Give me WiFi, and some projections screens, and I am happy.

    The Marie Reay Teaching Centre is clearly aimed at flipped group learning. You could give a presentation, but there are no lecterns, to make it just that little bit more difficult to do so. The IoT@NIE Learning Lab at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore has an interesting take on this. They have flip-up shelves around the walls, next to the display screens. These shelves are wide enough for a laptop, so you can flip one down to plug in for a presentation, but flip it up out of the way when not needed.

    The Marie Reay Teaching Centre has the features I asked for, so after ten years on-line, I have no excuse, and am going back into the classroom to teach, this semester.

    1. Re: flexible teaching rooms

      It’s great that you’re seeing the potential of the Marie Reay Teaching Centre classrooms! Nothing wrong with a good rectangular room 🙂 But I do wonder what your thoughts are on the rectangular tables? I love how the tables and chairs have wheels because that’s something I really struggled with in traditional classrooms where either the furniture was too heavy to move or there wasn’t enough space around them to manoeuvre easily. However, there are other designs for the shape of the tables and arrangement of the chairs that could have been explored, to make group work more flexible. For example, configurations that allowed tables to be merged together or separated so that parts of a group could break off to do their own thing and then join the larger group to discuss their ideas? Check out: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/490399846920032619/

      Resources permitting, each table can even have its own small whiteboard or screen that moves with it, or even be a digital table top (see Higgins 2011: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11412-011-9131-y). Although this does bring in the issue of bulky tech potentially getting in the way so of course we have to be mindful of these potential issues in designing learning spaces, as mentioned in Monahan (2002).

      1. Jen, the rectangular tables in the Marie Reay Teaching Centre classrooms are fine. I went through a phase where I spent months trying to design the ultimate curved desk. This would have enough space for students, but also pack together. I covered my desk with tracing paper, and then put a pen in each hand and drew how far I could reach. This produced a jelly bean shape (which I later discovered already used in the RMIT Library). If you assume all students are right handed you end up with an asymmetrical boomerang shape, like the desks in the ANU Ethel Tory Centre. But for practicality you can’t beat a simple rectangular desk, with a flip top.

        1. Hi Tom,

          We might have to agree to disagree on this one! I’m not saying boomerang tables are necessarily the answer, but I did like the more “triangular” pod like tables I’ve linked above. The reason being that there were countless times where I had to work in a small group of say four but we had to sit on a large table designed for six. Sometimes the table tops were too big so someone has to inevitably hunch over to work out what’s going on upside-down towards the other side of the table. Therefore, I’m not against rectangular tables per se, I’m just more in favour of modular tables that can be arranged to be rectangular (but also varying in size depending on your needs) or other shapes that might be more suitable… and I’m keen to not have to see things upside down, which could be something technology has an answer for?

          1. Jen Xiang, you need to have tables to suit the size of group expected, but there are going to be inevitable compromises. Small tables can be pushed together for larger groups, but then there will be more table legs in the way. One reasonable compromise are the semi-circular tables at the University of Canberra Inspire Center’s TEAL room. You can push two tables together to make one large round one. When used separately it is easier for a small group, than a rectangular table. But they can’t be assembled into long neat rows, like rectangular ones can.
            Fisher (p. 2.02, 2005) categorizes pedagogical activity, with “delivering” to many people at one extreme, and one-on-one “applying” at the other. Curiously, Fisher doesn’t seem to consider individual study to be part of learning. That aside, a room with electronic screens around the walls and movable furniture is a reasonable compromise for all these pedagogical activities, plus creating, communicating, and decision making.

            As for not seeing things upside down, I don’t think technology has an answer, unless you want to use Augmented reality (AR), or a 3d projector. You could put a barcode on the table, and people wearing AR glasses would see an image at that location, the right way up whatever direction they looked at it from. With a 3D projector you could have two images superimposed: those on one side of the table with horizontally polarized glasses would see the image up one way and those with vertically polarized would see it the other way up. But this would make group interaction with the image difficult, unless you also used some sort of electronic pointer.
            Last year I visited a Singapore university where they boasted of using VR headsets in a Harvard style room. I asked them about the dangers for people who could no see, moving about in a room with steps, and furniture. The head of school looked worried, and said they were moving it to a flat floor space.

          2. Hi Tom Worthington,

            I agree that having the right sized tables to suit the number of group members in a group is the way to go, which is why I prefer smaller modular tables because I want the flexibility to have differently sized groups. I was under the impression that is also what you prefer because you want a flexible space but if you’re always going to have 4-6 people in a group then I can also see how rectangular tables like the one at Marie Reay is to your liking. I think that makes perfect sense 🙂

            I also agree that there will often be compromises when it comes to choosing table designs but I think that good design can also solve a lot of problems, e.g. designing modular tables with thin legs to not interfere too much with flexible seating arrangements when combined together, or even being structured differently so that they don’t have to have legs at all sides. I’m just keen to consider these possibilities even if it is blue sky thinking 🙂

            With regards to technology, I was not thinking about VR as that might be overkill? But thanks for sharing what you have learnt about VR and how it has been used elsewhere. I was going for something simpler 🙂 Since a lot of group work we do right now involves looking at a flat surface (e.g. whiteboard or screen). I think providing workstations where students can see the same thing on their individual tablets (preferably large ones) means being able to collaborate on the same project without bending over, looking at things upside down and having some students unable to crowd around the same area. These are of course my thoughts on what I could have in a classroom if I had the resources.

    1. re:Silent Lecture
      That was the allure of going podcasting rather than lecturing/video – students with headphones engaged in the content whilst at the gym, on the bus, doing other things. We should check the length of the light rail journey (if it ever boots up), and start doing podcast length by anticipated destination station

      1. I love this idea! Is that 20 minutes from Gunghalin to Civic? 🙂 I often listen to audiobooks etc while at the gym and driving so if I was in the position of a student I would appreciate this very much!

    2. I love this idea! Chunked lecture podcasts! And it doesn’t have to be audio only, it could be short videos that students watch while having lunch, or waiting for the bus? Is that the sort of scenario you were envisaging Tom?
      Although, if I were the student, I think I would miss the interaction with my peers when we attend lectures/tutes, and the discussions generated afterwards. It’s fairly common for students to regroup and lament on what confused them during a lecture. So I wonder if we can introduce an interactive element to this? Perhaps there can be live comments made in response to the videos (Q&A style?) or even just allow students to comment at various points through a video with questions that the facilitator can address later?

  3. I teach Drama and in recent years there have not been many spaces available on campus that really suit the needs of Drama students. For Drama workshops, it’s really useful to have access to open spaces that are not cluttered by desks and/or permanent lecture facilities. While it sounds easy (i.e. we’re essentially talking about an empty space) there have been few spaces on campus that meet this requirement.

    Flexibility is good – i.e. having the option of using furniture/lecterns etc, but a way of easily reconfiguring these elements.

    I find it interesting to think about digital learning as a kind of ‘learning space.’ Bringing this dimension into the classroom…the image of a room configured to include screens made me think about how we can invite student interaction, while still allowing for the use of technologies such as laptops.

    1. Hi Rebecca, this is a really valuable point! Universities are often forced to reduce to the “common denominator” in terms of spaces, and this is often not suitable for specific discipline needs such as yours. I believe there is a purpose-built drama studio space in the new Kambri Precinct, so hopefully these new buildings provide some new spaces which are suitable for you.
      I liked your comment about digital learning as a learning space. I was once asked by a colleague how I laid out my physical classroom, and if I put the same design and planning into online spaces. This was definitely a “lightbulb” moment for me!! This is something we will explore in detail in Day 5 of the course.

    2. Agreed Rebecca – and there are a lot of other pedagogical activities which benefit from having the furniture out of the way – it was interesting that in the schematic graph in the blog all of the pictures had furniture of some kind, even if only chairs. I do often wish for less stuff in rooms – which is why the smaller desks on the Pinterest link that Jen put up were good – you could easily pack them to the side, opening up the classroom for more embodied activities.

  4. I have tried to add a comment on a padlet item but found it impossible. On my screen, using the latest Firefox, the items overlap and even if I reduce magnification to 30% there is still not enough room to see what I am typing in the comment space. Clicking on the item only gives the photo – no comments.
    Help!

    1. Hi Malcolm – sorry to hear you were having some trouble! I had a look and it seems like the problem was that too many contributed while I was out of the office! I have gone in and sorted things out so they appear in rows and you can see the comments. Take another when you get a chance and let me know if that is better? Here is the link again: https://padlet.com/eddesign/learningspaces

  5. Given I teach Services Marketing, which has a central theory/practice concept known as ‘servicescape’ (https://www.ida.liu.se/~steho87/und/htdd01/9208310667.pdf), teaching spaces have been a very real part of my course delivery, as I’m standing in the middle of the practice part of the onscreen theory, trying to explain the key ideas of best practice, and how the teaching spaces… well, how the teaching spaces usually miss the best practice by a country mile.

    It’ll be fun to run the Servicescape diagnostic on Kambri in Semester 2, when it’s had a chance to be worn in a bit, and we see which of the features turned out to be what Tom’s rightly identified as tech-gimmicks. My money’s on the TV mounted on the whiteboard to have met a permanent mark and maths equation 😉

    1. Hi Stephen, this concept is extremely useful for thinking about spaces in this course – thanks for sharing! I will give that article a read. Maybe we can organise an audit/review of the teaching spaces as you suggest and provide some feedback to the university? Have you found that students begin to think about their own classrooms/university experience in terms of ‘servicescapes’?

      1. We do use the classroom as the real time unpacking of the theory, and I have done walking tours of CBE venues (ANUCBE26) as a guided discussion of theory in practice. We do use it a bit for case examples and assessment, so it’s a very practical theory for learning spaces in that sense.

  6. Looking around at the Marie Reay rooms at the current configuration – I am thinking about utilising group settings for discussion throughout the class. However, it occurred to me that the open spaces with movable furniture also means allowing some time for change-over of configuration of the space if a previous class uses a different configuration to what I have planned for my class.

    And, I really like the idea of shorter podcasts. In terms of dealing with the Public Holiday Mondays this semester, I might actually think about creating podcasts that are short bursts of knowledge.

    1. Hi Rebecca,
      That’s so true! I’m always conscious of how much I need to fit into a class and getting everyone to move the furniture around can take awhile but at least we have wheels which should help? We also have lots of whiteboards in the teaching building so something you could try is get everyone to move their chairs to face each other or face the whiteboard to do group work without having to deal with moving the tables. I also find that’s a good way to encourage working on the whiteboard if all the students have are the whiteboard markers (with their laptops and notebooks out of reach). I find this to be very useful when I need to see what they’re doing so that I can better assess where they are at, if there are any issues with their working out/understanding. Have you thought of ways you could save time but still configure the furniture the way you want it?

  7. Having worked in residences for a long time, I noticed a significant shift over that time in where students have wanted to engage in informal learning activities. They don’t want to be in their room – too many distractions, and I suspect too little accountability. They want to be in public areas which are conducive to learning – whether quiet or more social. So we reconfigured a few spaces in my residence from being social spaces to be social study spaces. This trend is also translating out to the wider university campus – look at how students have been using the common areas in the new Hanna Neuman building for example. It will be very interesting to see how Kambri gets used by students and if they end up using it in unpredicted ways.

    1. Hi Jasmine,

      That’s a great observation, I’ve definitely struggled to study while living on campus as a student. I wish there were more study spaces available back then. We did have these small meeting rooms that students could go into to study but they were a bit isolated which suited students who worked best alone or in small groups but didn’t suit those who needed to be in a more open area with ambient noise. I do think its important not to assume that all students need a quiet place to study. As you pointed out, they might want that quiet space or they might want somewhere more social, or in my case the sounds of the hustle and bustle of a cafe with good coffee 😉

  8. Some of my worst teaching and learning space experiences revolve around distractions in the classroom environment. Rooms where the temperature is controlled off-campus and inevitably on the wrong setting, or when natural light accompanies scenery that is much more engaging than whatever is going on inside the classroom. Given all the gimmicky technology we squeeze into every nook and cranny, I am continually stumped as to why there are still rooms that prevent you from adjusting the temperature. Finally, as much as I love flat rooms, I strongly dislike flat rooms that are inappropriately set up for traditional lectures (think boardroom design). Visibility for both teacher and students is restricted in these rooms.

    In contrast, flat rooms with easily rearrangeable furniture are amazing learning spaces. I constantly change my room arrangements to suit the activity. From individual groups to U-shaped plenaries, to a circle of chairs with no desks. Yes, it takes a few extra minutes to set up and pack away. The good news is that, if you have a go-to arrangement, students usually cotton on and automatically set up the room after a few weeks. For larger classes, I am a fan of the U-shaped tiered lecture spaces. There are a couple of photos in the padlet. This seems to achieve a happy medium between interactivity (student-student and student-teacher) and visibility/accessibility.

    1. Hi Bhavani,

      Thanks for sharing! I agree that a rigidly set up room can be a real struggle to deal with if it is ill suited for what you’re trying to do in class. I am curious as to why your preferred room arrangement for a large class is the U-shaped tiered arrangement though. Also what are your thoughts on using technology as a way to allow everyone to access the same information (e.g. having multiple screens or file sharing capabilities), especially in a large class? Do you think that’s a good way to go about it or maybe a tier-ed space is still better? I don’t mind lecture theatres too much but I do have an issue with the rigidity that usually accompanies them (no way of rearrangements) and thus the lack of interactive learning that could take place compared to a flat room tutorial setup with moveable furniture. Also have you seen the risers (step-like blocks) in Marie Reay building? What are your thoughts on those being used to create flexible tiered arrangements.

      Also thanks for bringing up the temp! I don’t know if you’ve experienced this but I find that it can get really hot in a larger class as opposed to a smaller class just from the extra bodies in the room, which makes it hard for me as the facilitator, either watching people sweat or often being the sweatiest of the lot as a result of running around the room. So having adjustable temperature would be nice!

      1. Hi Jen,

        Re U-shaped tiered rooms, that was a case of poor wording on my part. I meant in relation to tiered lecture theatres – if choosing between traditional straight rows or U-shaped, to me there is a clear winner. There is something about the semi-circle that feels so much more flexible (within the constraints of a fixed, tiered theatre).

        My dream learning environment is a massive flexible slightly-tiered space. It would operate as a combined lecture and tutorial, or a seminar in the truest sense. Students sit in their tutorial groups. There is seamless integration between lectures and tutorials, with the convenor providing information in plenary, and the tutors working with their groups to facilitate active learning. Whiteboards/screens/etc will be scattered throughout the room for every tutorial group to utilise. Going one step further, since all tutorials are run at the same time, I would love to be able to assign students to tute groups. This would eliminate the common tutor complaint of struggling to pitch it at the right level given classroom diversity. Each tute group can be more easily tailored to suit the needs of their students. Further, students are not denied the opportunity to learn from each other, since there are always opportunities to interact in the plenary, or with other tute groups (think-pair-share writ large). Unfortunately, I have never experienced, nor had an opportunity to try, this yet. For all I know, it could end up being a catastrophe, and will almost certainly be a logistical nightmare. While I haven’t been to Marie Reay yet, it is sounding like it could accommodate my dream vision.

        I’m all for technology that enhances accessibility. However, slight tiering helps with line of sight – not just in terms of students seeing the material, but in terms of people seeing each other.

        Just as an aside, one of the convenors I work with has a no-technology-in-class policy. It’s not just for students – other than recordings (which the convenor would rather do without), the highest piece of technology we use is a whiteboard, and then the scanner afterwards to make handouts available to students who couldn’t attend. There are certainly drawbacks regarding accessibility. However, over several years, I haven’t had a single student complain about it, or say that it has caused them equity issues. On the contrary, students have commented that they enjoy the actual interaction that comes with unplugging for studies. This simply reiterates to me that it is important to use pedagogically-sound technology, instead of implementing technology for technology’s sake.

        My issue is usually that a room is too cold. Both here, and in Perth (during summer!), there are certain rooms where everyone is bundled up in their coats. But, then again, I am a bit reptilian and shut down in the cold 🙂

        1. Bhavani, I love your dream vision for a teaching space that combines lectures and tutorials together into one big room! I have been hearing more and more about 3 hour “lectorials” which integrate the lecture and tutorial time together, and I think this is really appealing. I think what appeals to me the most is what you mention around the ability for tutorial groups to cross-over and interact with each other. It is possible that some of the larger rooms in Marie Reay (6.02 “Superfloor” in particular) might be suitable for this sort of thing? Pop over and have a look at the space if you get a chance!

        2. Hi Bhavani,

          I love your dream vision too! You raise a good point about the benefits of a tiered classroom which we often miss because we only associate tiered spaces with traditional lecture styles. There is nothing to stop you from running a tute in a tiered environment assuming it is suited for group work 🙂 I think this is the reason why I do like the STB seminar room (top floor of the red science teaching building) where there are tables scattered up tiers, each with a screen and a few chairs around it. Although students are separated out into their small groups, they can still see each other and see the screen clearly even if they’re at the back of the room because of their individual screens that mirror what the lecturer/tutor has put up.

          Wrt to air conditioning, I’ve heard the temperature is usually set at the optimum temperature for men which is about 1-2 degrees colder than it is for women… something to think about!

          1. I have heard good things about STB. Need to take a walk over there one day.

            Knew there was a conspiracy behind the heating/cooling 😛

      2. Temperature is tricky isn’t it? In the larger classrooms I taught in, there were four heating/AC units and four controls. Students liked to adjust these but, even with these, it was tricky to get consensus on the ideal temperature. I am very much in the ‘rather be hot than cold’ camp. I have learnt that it is always wise to bring an extra jacket to keep warm, even so, it very difficult to concentrate if there is cold air blowing on your face!

  9. During a conference, I encounter one university that mentioned;
    “Lecture spaces is irrelevant in our university, as the students can access any lecture session from any one of our collaborative teaching spaces”

    Further elaboration describes that they have multiple pods that can accommodate up to six people per table that have a fixed monitor (similar to Marie Raey 4.02 or 5.02) which the students can flick the channels that is streaming their related lectures.

    Interactions are done through student portal (Wattle, ECHO360 or other similar application) so for that particular university this set-up works.

    There is also a general opinions that the students do not have a problem on where their classes will be held as long as the information is given clear and ahead of time and they are very unhappy if the session time is erratic.

    1. Hi Yusuf,

      Thanks for sharing. What are your thoughts on that statement about lecture spaces being irrelevant? Do you agree or disagree? I’m at two minds about it, on the one hand I enjoy attending lectures and sitting next to people I can chat quietly to (about the lecture of course!) but I also think I was so keen to be there in person because I didn’t want to miss what was written on a whiteboard or what the lecturer might have been pointing at. If all of that can be captured in video form then I might prefer watching a video that could be editted to be more concise and have the information chunked so that it is more digestable… I’m not quite sure where I sit on that one but I’ve personally disliked watching steamed lectures where the “off screen” information was missing.

  10. I think I fundamentally object to the idea that spaces should ‘say’ anything about the way I should teach. As a teacher, it should be my job to identify the sort of learning activities that will best help my students on a given day and the spaces should get out of the way and let me do that. I find it to be exceedingly unlikely that my students’ needs will follow a regular schedule each week (allowing me to book room A on Monday, room B on Wednesday and room C on Thursday). In fact, if I’m teaching well, I should be modifying my plans based on the evaluation of what students are learning I do in each class, making it impossible to identify my lesson by lesson room requirements in advance. So, when I look back on rooms I’ve used, it’s more a case of things I loved one week being in the way the next. (Although the whiteboards with cut off corners in the Hancock building were a constant annoyance).

    So I’m with the other commenters who have sung the praises of simple rooms with easily rearrangeable furniture. I’d also like all the walls to be covered in whiteboard paint/windows that can be written on. Ideally one of the walls would actually be a giant cupboard, with space to store all the furniture to allow the room to be converted to an empty space. I’d also like cushions, to encourage sitting on the floor at times. If we go further into my wish list, I’d like extra whiteboards to come down from the ceiling, allowing the room to be converted to a poster style session.

    1. Hi Ruth! First of all, yes how annoying were those cut-off corners! A perfect example of aesthetics being prioritised over function! I think that’s what we call bad design!

      With regard to preferring a simple room with rearrangeable furniture, I guess you’re saying that you do have a preference for a flexible room that you can tailor to whichever class you’re running at the time? But that doesn’t sound like you want the space to “get out of the way” or to not “say” anything though? What I mean is, all the cool things you’re suggesting would have to be part of a design process, which to me is saying that spaces say a whole lot, and in this case a flexible space that is flexible in the “right way” says a lot! And by “right way”, I mean the cupboards that store the furniture could be badly designed (e.g. having to manually stack furniture in awkward ways) or really well designed (e.g. some kind of one button or one touch way of pulling out the furniture effortlessly for fast rearranging). The same goes for all other aspects of room design. I love all these ideas you have, especially the white boards coming down from the ceiling. I would just add that I think it would be cool if it was transparent so you can write on either side (or even better if its two sided screen where writing on one side would flip the image on the other side so that no one has to read backwards! One can dream right?)

      Another thing we often don’t talk too much about is the colour, lighting and ambiance of a room, all things that affect our mood and therefore I think affecting our capacity to learn. For me, this is all tied to flexibility. I imagine an ideal class room to allow me to adjust brightness, temperature, colour, to project whatever images I want onto the walls (maybe be able to virtually simulate whatever I want, let’s go for a walk on a beach, or take a stroll through a plant cell!). I would want to control whether there are windows or not, maybe through use of that fancy glass material that lets you turn everything opaque! I think those are some of my blue sky ideas 🙂

      1. Hi Jen, I just wanted to say I want to come live in that blue sky world with you! We have recently started experimenting with colour-changing lights at home and we love being able to alter the brightness, colour, and create different “ambiances” in our rooms using the app to control it. 🙂

        1. Katie, that’s so awesome! I might need to renovate! Yes let’s go live in that blue sky world… *skips off into the sunset*

  11. A couple of late comments to add – and a request (maybe others would have the same request).

    First off, I flip courses so the interactive rooms are wonderful. Over the past 5 years, I’ve had a myriad of rooms to hold workshops in. My “dream” room is
    (1) Rectangular tables,
    (2) Windows looking out to nice outdoor scenes (This is not distracting – it just makes it so much more pleasant for everyone to be there. I detest being in a window-less, cell-like classroom – as both a student and a lecturer. Such rooms are for showing movies & shopping and possibly sleeping. If I am micro-distracted – that’s fine. One room I had looked out to the student entry or drop-in centre in my school — this was the most distracting room ever.)
    (3) A projector that allows wireless projection from my (or possibly a students’) IPAD or laptop. This would really impact how I do workshops.
    (4) As my students work with their laptops, charging cables provide a significant tripping hazard. But this is in conflict with the movable furniture.

    1. Hi Edie, I was just delivering a workshop in the Marie Reay centre and it sounds like it might be a very suitable space for you! The group I was with had a good discussion about the table shape – it’s interesting to hear how different teachers/disciplines prefer different types of tables, whether circular, boomerang, square, etc. But the main thing that I like about the new spaces is the wireless projection that you mention – I am a big user of my iPad when teaching so appreciate this very much. But having students being able to project and share their work is the real winning feature of wireless projection!

  12. Great !
    I wonder if I could get that space for my upcoming courses (I know its a late request at this point and I ask almost jokingly) . . . . One has ~70 students and another ~30 students.
    I will go on the tour on Friday (and I will bring my iPad!

  13. It is very interesting to think about learning spaces. I taught English to adult migrant and refugee students for 8 years. The desks were large and heavy so could not be moved easily so found that the best configuration was a U shape. This guaranteed that no student had their backs to one another and I could easily interact with every student face to face without accidentally missing anybody. I got quite adept at reading upside down and even writing upside down much to the amusement of my students. I encouraged them to sit next to different people every day and those who did improved at a much greater rate. This set up was great for lots of pair work and, luckily, there were enough extra chairs to have some on the inside of the U shape that students could sit at during group activities.

  14. Q:How have spaces impacted your teaching, or your students’ learning? Tell us about your best or worst experience in a classroom. What made it so?
    A:As a regular facilitator of library workshops which are mostly scheduled in library labs, one of the things that I find challenging is that there is still a sense of participants being “tethered to” and hidden behind the lab computers. On the positive side, the majority of the library labs have significant amounts of glass and natural light – which lightens the atmosphere no end – and plenty of room to walk and talk as a presenter. Recently viewing a computer lab (arranged with rows of individual carrell-style tables) as a potential training venue, I was actually surprised at how uncomfortable the furniture in the room made me feel. It was a complete turn off and, for me, felt like the opposite of a collaborative learning space, with the walls between each workspace representing a barrier to communication and information sharing. I found another venue for the training event which has a café style layout which felt more appropriate for collaborative learning and informal interaction.

  15. The language school where I used to teach had a few rooms with small, square tables on wheels and they were awesome! Very easy to move around. I would sometimes use up to 3 different configurations in the span of one class (my classes spanned 3.5 – 4 hrs, so you wanted to make sure they were varied!).
    When it comes to classroom arrangements: I especially like the “bistro/collaborative learning”-setup. But there are times when you want students to move around (e.g. when doing a Mill Drill activity). When the classroom did not allow for this – I would sometimes take them into the hallway or even to the courtyard.
    I am looking forward to learning more about learning spaces at ANU – I think this is a very interesting topic!

  16. I find working in a variety of spaces an interesting challenge to be able to create learning activities that both work for the students but also maximise use of the space. This can be more challenging in some instances but can also force you to think outside the box to adapt to what is in front of you.

    1. Hi Emmaline, your comment about adaptability makes me think about how and if we can incorporate this skill into teacher training in higher education, because I agree that it is an essential skill for handling diverse spaces, students, and technologies! I wonder if it’s something that is highlighted sufficiently to new teaching staff and if we can scaffold this for newer teachers to build up their skills to handle the range of things that the realities of teaching will throw at them!

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