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Changing a Learning Space.

Posted by on in Education Leadership
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“The goal of our transformation process is to prepare students for jobs that don’t yet exist, using technologies that have not yet been invented, in order to solve problems that have not yet arisen”

Lisa Marie Blaschke quoted by (Harrison, A. and Hutton, L. 2014, p31)

The learning space and problem.

My Learning Space is a Science laboratory, originally a standard classroom converted, that I spend most my time teaching in. The constraints of the lab include the fact that it is small and that the chairs and tables must be confined to the carpeted area. I have considered changing the tables from being in rows but gave up due to the space limit issue. This has meant group work is difficult to conduct as the benches are too small for that purpose. Below are photos showing how my lab looked before changing it.

lab3_rows_numbers

Why the space might benefit from some thinking on its design.

The practice of education has changed from instruction to learning and knowledge to thinking resulting in a move to student centred approaches from teacher centred ones. However the standard teaching model of 30 students in a room with a teacher out front has not changed (Harrison & Hutton) and a room structure as pictured above perpetuates this reality. The motivation to change the desk configuration from the one above to that pictured below was to move from a teacher centred to a student centred pedagogy.

lab3_ group config

Design thinking, being ‘

…an innovative, human centred approach to defining and solving complex problems…that encompasses active problem solving and believing in one’s ability to create impactful change.” (Carroll p.15, 16. 2014), is required as it focuses on people NOT buildings or things. Paramount to the design thinker is the ability to empathise with the user, in my case the students, and to take action by ‘prototyping’, in this case by changing the learning space and seeing the result. Taking action is an important process as it is then that the design thinker can reflect upon actions and processes – reflexivity (Seidel &

Fixson

). Artefacts result from action taken which can be in the form of a product, service, process, or business model (Kuratako). Design thinking provides a non-linear creative thinking process resulting in solutions to problems (Razzouk & Shute) that have no definitive conditions – wicked problems (Buchanan).

The space

might benefit using such a process to solve the problem of changing a pedagogical practice in a space that has physical limitations.

dt-copy

https://exploratownium.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/dt-copy.jpg

Here is a great example of design thinking focusing on improving the students and teacher’s classroom experience.

[embed=videolink]{"video":"","width":"400","height":"300"}[/embed]

The changes Made.

Already outlined is the fact that I have changed my classroom from row configuration to group configuration. Having done this I have had one class of my own in this room and a colleague has a double lesson in the room as well. I got some feedback from my colleague and she said that the setup did not help her class due to some of the ‘difficult’ students being able to see other students causing distraction. I found with my own class that it certainly was not a magic bullet for some of students focus on task. However what I have in mind is that such a set up may require the teacher to do more group work and be less teacher centred for it to work as the pedagogy inherent in such a physical setup is just that. The idea of doing away with rows was not only to do with moving from a teacher centred to a student centred approach but to also help with classroom management. Rows increase time for students to get to desks  lengthening settling time and also makes it harder for teacher to get around classroom

(Rogers). I also added a ‘Teacher Help Board’ (THB) to increase the efficiency of me helping students when they need help.

Free wall space for THB

lab3_ thb

Buchanan, R. (1992). Wicked problems in design thinking. Design Issues, 8(2), 5–21. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1511637 Carroll p.15, 16. 2014

Harrison, A., & Hutton, L. (2014). Design for the changing educational landscape: Space, place and the future of learning. New York: Routledge.

Kuratko, D., Goldsworthy, M., & Hornsby, G. (2012). The design-thinking process in innovation acceleration :

Transforming organizational thinking. (pp.103-123). Boston : Pearson. https://www.csu.edu.au/division/library/ereserve/pdf/kuratko-d1.pdf

Razzouk, R., & Shute, V. (2012). What is design thinking and why is it important? Review of Educational

Research, September, 82 (3), 330–348. http://rer.sagepub.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/content

/82/4/483.full.pdf+html

Rogers, B. (2006). Cracking the hard class: Strategies for managing the harder than average class (2nd ed.). London: Paul Chapman Pub.

Seidel, V., & Fixson, S. (2013). Adopting design thinking in novice multidisciplinary teams: The application and limits of design methods and reflexive practices. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 30, 19–33.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jpim.12061

Remake Your Class Part 1: Planning for a Collaborative Learning Environment. (n.d.). Retrieved July 22, 2015.

 

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I am High school science teacher with a Maters Degree in Astronomy and Studying a Masters Degree in ICT in Education. I have been teaching for about 20 years in various schools near Sydney, Australia. Professionally I have a particular interest in the use of EdTech in breaking down classroom walls and proving student collaboration and engagement.

  • Guest
    Tanya Appleby Sunday, 02 August 2015

    Hi Brad!
    I thought that I would offer you some feedback
    Re:
    I got some feedback from my colleague and she said that the setup did not help her class due to some of the ‘difficult’ students being able to see other students causing distraction. I found with my own class that it certainly was not a magic bullet for some of students focus on task. However what I have in mind is that such a set up may require the teacher to do more group work and be less teacher centred for it to work as the pedagogy inherent in such a physical setup is just that...

    I would suggest that you try rotating the groups around - bit like speed dating. Some kids stay at the table while others rotate around. This means that the groups can be varied up and you can then shift the distracting kids.
    I don't think that there is a point in shifting the classroom if you are not going to shift the pedagogy and make it more group focused. One Of things that I have learnt is that it means that my role as the teacher has become different. I spend less time at the front and more time with the groups.

  • Brad Murphy  @bradmurphy73
    Brad Murphy @bradmurphy73 Thursday, 11 February 2016

    Excellent points Tanya about the need to change pedagogy when a learning space is changed. This is exactly in keeping with the work of John Hattie who has been critical of the implementation of new learning spaces where staff are not trained in different pedagogical approaches required in open learning spaces for example. It is important to realise that changing a learning space to favour a collaborative, student centred pedagogy but still teaching with a didactic, instructivist pedagogy can actually result in worse outcomes. Ideally learning spaces should be flexible and agile where they can be changed at a moments notice to suit different pedagogical approaches, from lecture, to group work, to individual work etc...

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Guest Thursday, 08 December 2016