..... EXPLORING CONCEPTUAL, PERSONAL, SOCIAL, PHYSICAL AND VIRTUAL SPACES FOR LEARNING IN HIGHER EDUCATION
Monday, October 12, 2009
Towards a working definition of learning spaces?
When I started research into learning spaces in post-compulsory education I found little not framed by the 'commonsense' notion that we should be moving from formal (passive, boring) to informal (active, exciting) spaces in both physical design and teaching and learning methods.
Just how changes in spaces and changes in learning were connected remain under-explored; as do the complexities of why and how to implement any effective improvements.
More recently, with some serious attempts to re-think evaluation methods for example, it feels like we are beginning to see the need for both better theory and practices. So it was great to read - for the first time in my experience - a researcher examining what might make a working definition of the concept learning spaces (in her case using the term 'learning landscapes'). I don't know if I agree with Angela Thody (researcher for the University of Lincoln's Learning Landscapes project) attempt, but it offers a very useful start to help thinking and debate:
University learning landscapes are conceptually holistic, loosely-coupled interconnections of all formal and informal, on- and off-campus, virtual and physical facilities, sites and services and how stakeholders use them. A learning landscapes approach is distinguished from mere site management by academics’ and governors’ conscious decisions to manipulate all the traditional and innovative facilities so they are continually and ubiquitously available, collaborative opportunities to enhance learning. Preparations for this approach require understandings of why universities are still wanted, mapping of how they are now used and a belief that all elements of university environments have to justify their roles in learning. (Thody 2008(1):13)
And the image is from architect Sarah Wigglesworth, who is one of many contemporary architects very interested in finding ways of working with architectural space as a process - inseparable from the activities that go on in it.