A New Curriculum and a New Learning Space: An Opportunity for Real Change in an Irish Context
AuthorBarry, N; Raftery, D
Source TitleEvaluating Learning Environments: Snapshots into Emerging Issues, Methods and Knowledge
AffiliationArchitecture, Building and Planning
CitationsBarry, N. & Raftery, D. (2016). A New Curriculum and a New Learning Space: An Opportunity for Real Change in an Irish Context. Imms, W (Ed.). Cleveland, B (Ed.). Fisher, K (Ed.). Evaluating Learning Environments: Snapshots into Emerging Issues, Methods and Knowledge, (1), pp.181-193. Sense Publishers.
Access StatusOpen Access
ARC Grant codeARC/LP130100880
Curricular change is currently underway in Ireland. A new Junior Cycle Student Award (JCSA) marks a move away from traditional learning and examinations, replacing these with project work, continual assessment, and collaborative styles of learning. Traditionally, teaching and learning has been dominated by teacher-led methodologies. Students sit in straight rows of square individual desks facing a whiteboard and projector at the front of the classroom. The teacher lectures on their subject expertise and the students write notes, with limited peer interaction. However, the foci of the JCSA are team work, discussion, project design, and collaboration and these will change the dynamic of classrooms, and improve the communication skills of pupils. This kind of change presents an excellent opportunity to reconsider classroom spaces and how they are used, with a view to designing new learning spaces to accommodate the curricula innovation. Ireland has for many years used curriculum reform as an accelerant for the adoption of learner-centred pedagogies in teaching and learning (National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, 2011). However, schools have experienced difficulty moving away from past pedagogical cultures to adopt new approaches to teaching and learning. If the traditional learning spaces in schools are not reconfigured to allow for collaborative work is it reasonable to predict that the new approaches of the JCSA are doomed? In Ireland, school designs for State-funded school buildings are contained in a set of guidelines from the Department of Education and Skills (DES). The DES insists that “where it is proposed to construct a new school these guidelines and all associated documents in the suite of Design Guidance should be applied in full” (Technical Guidance Second Level School, DES, 2014). The design philosophy of the DES states that “the different functions of the ‘Design Team’ members shall be integrated, combining ‘Building Services Engineering’, ‘Architectural Design’, ‘Structural Engineering’ and ‘Quantity Surveying’ to create a well-designed, sustainable, cost effective, durable low maintenance building” (DES, 2014). Notably missing in this ‘team’ are the teachers, principals and pupils. This study suggests that teachers and principals have a key role to play in informing good design for learning spaces and they should play a central role in evaluating innovative learning spaces.
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