Re-placing flexibility: an investigation into flexibility in learning spaces and learning
AuthorWoodman, Kenneth Ritchie
AffiliationArchitecture, Building and Planning
Document TypePhD thesis
CitationsWoodman, K. R. (2011). Re-placing flexibility: an investigation into flexibility in learning spaces and learning. PhD thesis, Architecture, Building and Planning, The University of Melbourne.
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© 2011 Dr. Kenneth Ritchie Woodman
Pedagogical approaches in education are currently moving from teacher-directed, didactic, and instructionalist towards student-centred, personalised, and constructivist. As a result, classrooms are changing from enclosed, rectangular, repetitive cells to open, connected, flexible learning spaces. The term flexibility has become inseparable from learning spaces. It is employed extensively by those involved in school design and use. While learning spaces have recently been the subject of research, little is known about the impact of flexibility on learning. This study explores this phenomenon by asking: “How does flexibility in learning spaces affect learning?” Constructivist educators focus on students constructing their own understandings within learning situations supported by social interactions. In the constructivist approach, the learning environment has significant influence through a transaction with the learner. Within the learning environment purposeful learner movement is considered by constructivists as an essential requirement for learning. Learning spaces can be usefully examined using theories of space, place, and human-environment transactions. Flexibility is often promoted in the design of learning spaces, but currently in the literature the term is confused and contested. This study suggests a new categorisation of flexibility into time, space, use, and movement. This provides a framework for initial analysis of the term and supports empirical research in the study. The qualitative research focused on the single case of a secondary school in regional Victoria, Australia. This school was in the process of changing from teacher-directed pedagogy to student-centred constructivist learning. Over a period of one year, I studied six different learning spaces with a range of year groups and associated pedagogies. Facilities providers, architects, teachers, and students were all part of the research process. Multi-method data collection was employed including spatial mapping, semi-structured interviews, and participatory action research. The findings provide an understanding of the diverse meanings of flexibility held by participants. Also, they reveal the impact of flexibility on traditional pedagogical, progressive pedagogical, and heutagogical learning spaces. This leads to a discussion about flexibility in relation to meanings, transformability, fluidity, de-territorialisation, place-making, practice, and freedom. Through this research, flexibility is re-placed, not as a product of building, but as a process of learning.
Keywordsflexibility; learning spaces; learning; space; place
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