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.
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.
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
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.
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.)
- 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/