Pedagogy is the practice or method of teaching. In order to promote effective learning, we need learning spaces that are designed to support and promote the learning process.
Teaching space is evolving
From blackboards in the twentieth century to the interactive, collaborative learning of today, we look at how the way we learn is influencing our teaching spaces.
If you went to school in the 1980s or earlier, there’s a good chance you remember your teacher writing on a blackboard, just as teachers had done for the last 150 years. You may remember the ground-breaking introduction of wipe-clean whiteboards towards the end of the decade, that seemed so modern by comparison. At school in the 1990s? Well you probably got the best-of-both-worlds with those cool rotating blackboards and whiteboards, which offered teachers and learners double the writing space without wiping anything. Fast forward to today, these ‘modern’ solutions of the late twentieth century pale by comparison to the incredible interactive whiteboards that are now commonplace in educational institutions across the country.
But the blackboard/whiteboard transformation is just one small part of the educational workspace that has changed over the years. Where once students would be sat in rows, ready to have knowledge deposited in their minds, today the emphasis is on creating immersive learning experiences where students can engage and collaborate. This in turn impacts the learning environment and how our learning spaces are designed so that pedagogy can have the greatest impact.
Flexible spaces are key
Learning spaces need to be more versatile than ever before and flexibility is key to getting the most from the space. Students may need to move around and engage with each other, or listen to their facilitator, or use additional facilities in the space. This example at City University of London shows how different configurations of desks can be used to support different types of learning. Even teacher-lead facilitation may take place in different locations around the learning space; at an interactive whiteboard with projector, a traditional whiteboard, or individual desks.
Flexibility is also about making sure our design and furniture choices can support usage changes, as well as standing the test of time. There's now a bigger emphasis on mobile furniture and technology that can be moved to accommodate the changing needs of the space. Well-designed learning spaces should have a flexible IT infrastructure that can easily be modified and upgraded every few years as technology advances. In the same way that WiFi has moved from a luxury to a student necessity, learning spaces will need to continue accommodating further advances in technology.
Where once students relied primarily on their teacher to provide the learning, now schools and higher educational establishments place considerable emphasis on learning through collaboration. It’s about sharing and developing ideas, gaining different perspectives, and learning to work with others – both in the classroom and outside of it. Within a workspace, students will need space for group work, to capture ideas, for project-based learning, as well as access to outside information through a high-speed internet connection. Outside the classroom, higher education spaces offer students breakout space, social learning spaces and open plan learning areas - as demonstrated by the library at the University of Portsmouth. When students need to work independently or in small groups, acoustic separation is used to avoid distracting others.
Creating motivational spaces is a key factor in the design and creation of our learning spaces. Aesthetically pleasing spaces with attention to colour or artwork can stimulate the mind, whilst workspaces with an abundance of natural light or biophilic features can also help to energise and motivate. Social spaces (such as café and breakout areas) and workspaces that suit different tasks can help students and academic staff alike to achieve their full potential. This provides them with an environment for quiet study, collaboration and for practicing presentations. By creating spaces where people feel good and want to be, we increase their motivation to achieve.
Individual Focus and Inclusion
We about creating learning spaces that focus on the needs of the individual, including the need for inclusive spaces that provide access for all. This covers elements like accessible IT including wi-fi, IT learning suites and, for higher education, 24-7 access. Design should allow for access for all, including wider doorways, level thresholds, hearing loops, good visibility of presentations, flexible furniture, sufficient signage and wayfinding.
Pedagogy by its very nature, is a discipline that is continually evolving and improving so the physical spaces that support the practice must also evolve with the times. By taking into account the needs of the learners, as well as that of the teaching staff, we can design and create learning spaces that promote excellence in teaching and learning facilities.