Sunday, April 25, 2010

The problem with names

Learning Landscapes conference has been written up in the Times Higher Ed by Matthew Reisz, under the title "

"Lingua franca needed to shape cutting-edge pedagogic spaces".

What is most perhaps most interesting is the (one) response to date, which I will quote in full:

"Lingua franca needed? We could do with a little more plain English too. Pedagogic spaces indeed! And what on earth does "ways in which the academic voice can be fully articulated within the decision-making processes at all levels of the design and development of teaching and learning spaces" mean?"

So whilst Mike Neary, the co-ordinator of the project, is calling for more academic involvement in, and reflection on, learning space design - especially through deeper engagements with the idea of the university - here is an academic who doesn't even know what he is talking about. I have also interviewed many tutors who didn't think the concept of learning spaces means much that is useful or interesting to them.

This isn't to say that academics are the problem. Rather it raises three issues. First, both educational theory and architectural design still have little purchase on many post-compulsory academic disciplines; theory because it seems obscure and unrelated to the specialist expertise of different subjects, and architecture because outside of art and design it tends to be treated as something which is obvious, but which architects somehow fail to get 'right'. Second, there is no such thing as a shared language about learning spaces - what we urgently need to do instead is improve our understandings of the relationships between space and its occupation; and to open these up for wider debate. Third, we have to start from where academics and their colleagues are, that is, by accepting the tensions and complexities of existing communities of practice within and across universities and colleges, and not expecting consensus or even acceptance that here is an area worth considering. And to do that we need to make better arguments....

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