What's space to learning? A small-scale research project into the influence of space on teachers’ views on learning

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    Abstract

    As “space […] works on its occupants” (Pouler cited in Scheer & Preiser 1994, p. 175), both students and teachers are influenced by the physical contexts in which learning occurs. However, so far focus on the furnishing of classrooms (and built environment as a whole) in universities as being of importance to the student learning experience has not been overwhelming (Temple 2008). In this paper preliminary findings from a small-scale research project are presented aiming at investigating the influence of spatial conditions on teachers’ views on teaching and learning. Not to evaluate if any given learning space is liked or not, and not even to evaluate whether it has prompted better teaching, but to understand how teachers are in dialogue with the learning space they are going to use for teaching – that is, how teachers shape the room and how the room then shape their teaching. The research method for this project builds on Lefebvre’s (1991) spatial triad; the perceived, the conceived and the lived space. Semi-structured interviews with four teachers on their expectations, intentions and experiences with a certain learning space were conducted and as part of the interviews, the teachers were asked to describe the learning space by sketching it. Additionally, a teaching situation in the learning space concerned was observed for each of the four teachers. The preliminary results show teachers including considerations on space in their planning and conducting of teaching. The four teachers interpret, however, the possibilities and limitations of the same space in very different ways. Some focus on the distribution between floor space and tables in the learning space while others focus on the space’s technical devices as opposed to its whiteboards. But space can also be alienating to the teacher’s expectations; one teacher complains that he hasn’t been “properly introduced to the room and its potential” and hence he almost teaches in spite of space. The findings point in themselves to recommendations of creating ownership for teachers and students of a learning space and its resources in order to enhance teaching that uses the full potential of a given learning space as is also the noted in other similar, recent studies (Pearlshouse et al. 2009, Melhuish 2010). The different interpretations of the space give also rise to considerations on the relations between physical space and pedagogical space for action. In that regard this project suggests interesting ways forward using the method of asking teachers to sketch a learning space as the method enables other expressions of meaning than talking or writing about learning spaces (Mavers 2011). This “sketch a space” method could become an enriching method to evaluate learning spaces and learn more about what space is to learning. References: Lefebvre, H. (1991). The production of space. Translated by D. Nicholson-Smith. Blackwell Mavers, D. (2011). Image in the multimodal ensemble. In C. Jewitt (Ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Multimodal Analysis (pp. 263-271). London: Routledge. Melhuish, C. (2010). Ethnographic case study: perceptions of three new learning spaces and their impact on the learning and teaching process at the University of Sussex and Brighton. CETLC, Universities of Sussex and Brighton, and CETLD, School of Arts and Architecture, University of Brighton. Scheer, B. & Preiser, F.E. (1994). Design review: Challenging the urban aesthetic control. London: Chapman & Hall Pearshouse, I., Bligh, B., Brown, E., Lewthwaite, S., Graber, R., Hartnell-Young, E., & Sharples, M. (2009). A study of effective evaluation models and practices for technology supported physical learning spaces (JELS). Learning Sciences Research Institute at Nottingham University. Temple, P. (2008). Learning spaces in higher education: an under-researched topic. London Review of Education, 6(3), 229-41
    OriginalsprogEngelsk
    Publikationsdato2014
    Antal sider1
    StatusUdgivet - 2014
    BegivenhedOn the Definitions of Learning - Syddansk Universitet, Odense, Danmark
    Varighed: 28. aug. 201429. aug. 2014

    Konference

    KonferenceOn the Definitions of Learning
    LokationSyddansk Universitet
    Land/OmrådeDanmark
    ByOdense
    Periode28/08/201429/08/2014

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