Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Talking spaces

Just back from the Learning Landscapes conference at Queen Mary's College London, which was to launch their final HEFCE-funded report and tools. I gave a paper (called "where is the theory?") and also listened to an interesting and varied range of other speakers. Very full day - 10 speakers in total - so not much audience participation possible, but good in that the speakers were selected to open up debate, rather than merely describe the project report.

Left with a mixture of optimism about the vital potential of bringing together estate managers, architects and educationalists perspectives on learning spaces; and frustrated that we still have - despite the work of the groups like Learning Landscapes at the University of Lincoln - very few approaches or methods which offer a firm purchase on relationships between architectural design, teaching and learning encounters, and space/resource development and management. Or rather we have several, but which are being generated piecemeal across the sector, from across both academic and commercial locations.

So we are left to choose between - if we can even find the work - say, the LL approach based on a better understanding of the history of universities as a building type, or (from the Institute of Education in London) Paul Temple's ideas about thinking 'place' rather than 'space'; or even my own argument which is that we need to build better conceptual frameworks and research methods, preferrably on the best contemporary theoretical work across architecture, education and the social sciences.... the core argument behind the Towards Creative Learning Spaces book.

1 comment:

  1. I think this is an interesting discussion. I'm just finishing off an internal report at Univ. of Leicester evaluating a number of experimental spaces at the university. This has thrown up a number of issues. Firstly, the baseline questionnaire used showed that students in the sample had a strong preference for active learning approaches and spaces which have a strong synergy with this view. Secondly, interviews showed that they linked the experimental spaces, but when we asked them if they had any evidence that the spaces had actually helped them learn more successfully, we kept getting replies about the light, bright rooms with comfy chairs and lots of IT. However we approached it the students seemed to equate their environment with better learning, but there is little/no evidence that learning has actually been improved.

    Having also interviewed staff, we are forming the opinion that unless the spaces and the technologies etc they contain are in keeping with pedagogical beliefs of staff the developments are of little use.

    I am going to try to develop the learning element of this work next year by working at a deep level with students to understand their leanring experiences and development through the use of private blogs and e-portfolios - should be interesting as they are PGCE students who experience a number of spaces over the course of the year.