Sunday, May 02, 2010

Research Lead Learning Space Design

The new Lilley Centre at Brisbane Grammar School has received attention as example of a 21st century learning space. ABC Radio By Design discussed the centre (28 April), as did an article in Australian Design Review. What I found more interesting that the design of the building itself is that is came from a research collaboration between the architects (Wilson Architects) and the University of Queensland, supported by a Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC) grant.

The project had the grand title of "Designing Next Generation Places of Learning: Collaboration at the Pedagogy-Space-Technology Nexus" and was funded with a federal $200,000 grant in 2006. Keywords to describe the project were: "Active learning, Collaborative learning, Design, Higher education facilities, Information Technology, Learning environments, Learning space, Libraries, Places & spaces for learning".

The project aimed to produce a framework for designing learning spaces including libraries, collaborative learning centres and teaching spaces. Some of the terms used in the original proposal now seem a little dated, such as mention of "the interactive lecture theatre of the future". But the originators of the project were not to know that by 2010 the idea of a "Lecture Theatre" would be obsolete (in part due to the work of the people in the project). However most of the rest of the project is directly applicable to the education revolution now taking place.

The project planned to disseminate results with case studies and forums. Those involved have delivered much more than promised, with the ideas made concrete (literally) with the Lilley Centre at Brisbane Grammar designed by Wilson Architects and in the Next Generation Learning Spaces website by University of Queensland. I have previously visited and been impressed by the eZones at the University of Queensland.

The projects also produced a useful report, "Designing Next Generation Places of Learning: Collaboration at the Pedagogy-Space-Technology Nexus", ALTC Priority Project #627, David Radcliffe, Hamilton Wilson, Derek Powell, Belinda Tibbetts, 2008. Unfortunately this report is provided in a poorly formatted PDF document, so here is the executive summary:
Executive Summary
There is growing interest in higher education institutions, nationally and internationally, in the creation of new types of learning environments supporting learner-centred or constructivist pedagogy. While many new facilities start out with sound pedagogical intent, the actual spaces often reflect the imperatives of technology, or architecture, or operational considerations. A more systemic way to maintain the appropriate balance between pedagogy, space and technology as a basis for the design and evaluation of new learning spaces is needed.

The Next Generation Learning Spaces (NGLS) project explored the interdependence of pedagogy, space and technology to develop the Pedagogy-Space-Technology (PST) framework which enables institutions to create new teaching and learning spaces that will encourage student engagement and improve learning outcomes.

The PST framework is a question-driven inquiry process synthesized from published literature and knowledge of innovative teaching and learning spaces globally, and informed by lessons learned in developing new learning facilities at The University of Queensland (UQ) over the past decade. It empowers a diverse range of potential stakeholders to consider critically and holistically the pedagogical, technological, and physical aspects of teaching and learning spaces and their interactions. It can be used at each stage of the life cycle of a new facility, from conception through stages of design, construction, and operation.

Life cycle stage table omitted

The table illustrates the basic questions for the various stages of a new facility. Each of these basic questions is expanded into a more detailed set of questions and issues to be considered and guide the process. As an evaluation tool, it links design intent with outcomes, and challenges all concerned to question the what, why and how of initiatives to create new learning spaces. Its generic simplicity means it can be used for any type of learning spaces from a laboratory to a learning commons, to more conventional performance space. The framework can also be applied to small or large scale projects. It is inherently self-documenting and aides the elicitation of lessons learned for future projects. Within UQ, the framework was used to refine various learning spaces such as the new Collaborative Teaching and Learning Centre (CTLC), the Advanced Concept Teaching Space (ACTS), and a next generation library in the Biological Sciences Library.

The project team has held two national Colloquia which have helped to educate and develop a diverse, interdisciplinary community in the higher education sector focussed on new learning spaces.

Subsequent to the Colloquia, several institutions have revised their approach to learning spaces. It is anticipated that the PST framework, and the shared experience of new learning spaces gained as a result of the project, will continue to influence the creation and evaluation of innovative learning environments in higher education in Australia and beyond. ...

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