Designing Learning Spaces

Spaces shape and change practice. Engaging, adaptable spaces energise
students, teachers and the community. Well-designed learning spaces
inspire creative, productive and efficient learning.

I’ve been working through this year with the staff of the new senior high school due to open at the beginning of next year in Albany. I visited them this week and was impressed by the way in which all the planning has come to fruition in terms of the (temporary) buildings that have been provided for them to begin the year in.  Lots of the thinking about the design of these spaces, and the way they will be used, has been informed by the thinking emerging from Victoria, Australia summarised in the publication titled Linking Pedagogy and Space by Dr Kenn Fisher, (2005) which I’d recommend as a worthwhile read. The approach taken by Fisher starts by exploring the teaching and learning principles and pedagogical approaches, then linking these principles and approaches to ideas about space and place summarised in the form of five ‘learning setting principles’. The publication is expertly presented, with case studies and illustrations of each setting.

Today I was made aware MCEETYA Learning online world report – titled Learning Spaces Framework, published by DEECD (formerly DET) in Melbourne. This framework captures much of the thinking of Fisher and others, laying out a set of principles for the design of learning spaces, but placing a special emphasis on the design of ICT-rich learning spaces – something that there hasn’t been a lot of material published on that I’ve found particularly useful to date.

So often we make decisions about the use of space and the need for technology in quite different parts of the brain, not necessarily linking them in the way they ought to be. This is particularly evident in the number of computer labs that continue to exist, and computers perched on desks at the back of conventional classrooms etc. The MCEETYA document captures a broad spectrum of thinking, and maintains a very future focused approach, summarising these ideas in a range of considerations that need to be addressed when planning for the use of existing space, or designing new spaces for teaching and learning. The think I particularly like about the publication is how it prioritises the need to articulate a shared vision for ICT in teaching, learning and administration in schools as the important first step in all of this. So often I see decisions being made as a directive of an over zealous ICT teacher, or the conservative school manager, and seldom as the result of focused, collaboratively developed and agreed upon statements of whole school beliefs and values.

Certainly, the team at Albany have followed this approach, and I’ll be following with interest the development of their teaching and learning programmes once their students arrive at the beginning of next year!

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