Why Innovative Learning Environments? Stories from three schools that helped establish an ongoing space and pedagogy agenda
Source TitleSchool Space and Its Occupation Conceptualising and Evaluating Innovative Learning Environments
PublisherBrill - Sense
University of Melbourne Author/sCleveland, Benjamin
AffiliationArchitecture, Building and Planning
CitationsCleveland, B, Why Innovative Learning Environments? Stories from three schools that helped establish an ongoing space and pedagogy agenda, School Space and Its Occupation Conceptualising and Evaluating Innovative Learning Environments, 2018, 1, pp. 39 - 65
Access StatusOpen Access
The research reported in this chapter was conducted to address a seemingly simple question: How are contemporary middle years (Years 5-9) pedagogies influencing the design of physical learning environments? What the study uncovered was a deep spatio-pedagogical conversation about historical misalignments between middle years pedagogies and largely isolated and dissociated classrooms, and the desire to create new and innovative learning environments to better accommodate the practices, activities and behaviours of contemporary teaching and learning. During the period between 2008-2011, school leaders identified tensions between traditional classroom spaces fitted only with tables and chairs and the pedagogical objectives and intensions of leading middle years educators, such as those outlined in the Middle Years Research and Development (MYRAD) Project (DEET, 2002, p. web): – Strengthening teacher-student relationships; – Involving students in decision-making about content, process and assessment; – Presenting authentic tasks that require complex thought and allowing time for exploration; – Inclusion of processes involving co-operation, communication, negotiation and social competencies generally; and – Providing for individual differences in interest, achievement and learning styles. Undertaken as a PhD study titled Engaging spaces: Innovative learning environments, pedagogies and student engagement in the middle years of school (Cleveland, 2011), the research investigated the emergence of ‘space’ as a factor in re-thinking how schools might operate, how teachers might teach, and most importantly how students might learn. The project was embedded within an Australian Research Council Linkage project titled Smart Green Schools and was situated in three schools in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. To report on a) why the three participating schools wished to create more innovative learning environments for their middle years’ students, b) how they went about creating these environments, and c) what characterised the learning environments they created, this chapter is divided into three main sections: – Drivers for change; – Design process; and – Architectural responses. These sections are preceded by a short discussion of critical pedagogy (Freire, 1970; 1973: Giroux 1985; Apple, 1995; McLaren, 1998; 2007; Giroux & Schmidt, 2004), the theoretical framework that informed the analysis of the field-data and supported discussion in this chapter. This conceptual tool was employed to analyse and discuss the motivations, objectives and intentions of the schools’ leaders and explore the ideological, sociological, pedagogical and spatial implications of their educational aspirations. As a qualitative multiple case study (see Research Design), the findings presented have been aggregated from across the three schools. Quotes extracted from interviews have been included to support the claims made and to ensure that the voices of the study’s co-researchers/participants were portrayed. On occasion, specific sites are referred to by pseudonyms to illustrate particular phenomenon. The schools that took part in the study were selected due to their involvement in ‘space and pedagogy projects’ i.e. projects that dealt with the development of innovative learning environments for contemporary pedagogies. The individuals who drove these projects were largely the school leaders – principals, associate principals, assistant principals and leading teachers. The findings that are presented and discussed were mostly derived from a series of interviews with these influential people. To a lesser extent, the perspectives of the teachers and students who took part in these projects are also represented. Of course, school communities do not act in isolation to imagine and deliver new ‘socio-spatial contexts for learning’. Architects, interior designers, landscape architects, education consultants, members of school council and parents are all instrumental in driving projects such as these forward. I chose to focus on the perspectives and opinions of school leaders, teachers and students in order to portray the voices of those most likely to be directly affected by changes to learning environments and pedagogies.
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