The interviews and the research for this project have highlighted the perceived benefits by those who are exploring and adapting learning spaces:

  • Schools can connect the physical changes required with learning and teaching developments. This can help the school to identify how priorities can be determined with a single point of focus. Schools can be much more aware of how space is being used.
  • Technologies can be used across different subjects to enhance the use of space. For example, the teacher does not need to go to a computer lab to enable students to work together to access devices.
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Kuuskorpi and González (2011) acknowledge that ‘the basic structure of teaching spaces does not seem to have evolved much over the past century.’ Their research explores four different ‘learning contexts’ as part of a ‘physical learning environment.’ The study identified key factors that form part of the notable comparisons within physical learning environments; these are ‘changeability, flexibility and sustainability’. The study involved giving students the opportunity to arrange a model classroom using a specific set of furniture (1:50 scale) to determine how they ‘would like tomorrow’s classroom to be configured’.

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In the report published by ISTE, Basye et al (2015) highlight the need for learning spaces to be ‘active’ in order to allow students to communicate and collaborate, as they will be expected to do so in the workplace. They explore the notion of ‘Active Learning’ to demonstrate how the teacher can change what is happening at the centre by synthesising space, technology and pedagogy.

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Personalising learning is an ongoing process enabling the teacher to make formative assessments and to continually support the learning of the individual. The use of technology in the environment has enabled teachers to give more targeted activities and to provide immediate, direct feedback to allow the student to learn at their own pace. Access to technology also means that evidence can be captured to potentially give more precise detail about the student’s progress.

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Technology is pervading C21st learning environments but the reality is that innovative use of technology in classrooms continues to be fragmented and inconsistent. While the interactive screen at the front of the classroom remains the dominant feature in most classrooms, there is a realisation that students can change the direction of the learning much more readily either by engaging with existing technologies in the classroom or by bringing their own device. This is because 1:1 access encourages opportunities for immediate participation and students can be involved in different tasks.

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Definition of Learning Spaces

Work carried out by OECD (2006) has probably come closest to providing an agreed definition of learning spaces:

The OECD defines ‘educational spaces’ as ‘a physical space that supports multiple and diverse teaching and learning programmes and pedagogies, including current technologies; one that demonstrates optimal, cost-effective building performance and operation over time; one that respects and is in harmony with the environment; and one that encourages social participation, providing a healthy, comfortable, safe, secure and stimulating setting for its occupants. In its narrowest sense, a physical learning environment is seen as a conventional classroom and, in its widest sense, as a combination of formal and informal education systems where learning takes place both inside and outside of schools (Manninen et al., 2007).

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