Teaching Stories

The Office: Episode One

For the last year I have been on a BILT fellowship looking into learning space. I have travelled far and wide to see different teaching spaces, I have read numerous papers and I have written a few blog posts on the way. But also over the last year I have been planning and plotting and on Thursday this hard work all comes to fruition. Over the next ten weeks I plan on writing regular updates but let’s rewind back to the beginning.

Before I started in academia, before I did a PhD, I worked for an engineering firm designing buildings. And this work took place in an office.

Now, for many years people have learnt to do things in an authentic environment.

I learnt to drive a car in a car not in a classroom.

I have taken my children to multiple swimming lessons that occur in a swimming pool and not in a classroom.

We take our engineering students out into the field to measure and set out because you really can’t learn this just in a classroom.

And yet for many years I have taught practical subjects, like the design of buildings, in a classroom and not where they actually occur, in an office.

No more. This week, in just three more days, 40 students will walk into my new engineering practice, called Just Timber, where they will learn about Timber Engineering (a fourth year engineering option). To make this possible I will be transforming a flatbed classroom into an office.

Logo for the office ‘company’.

To understand what I will need to make this space feel like an office I went back to my old practice, Integral Engineering Design, and took a look around. I made a note of what they had, the photos of projects on the wall, the office plants, the meeting table and chairs, the library of useful books which you reach for when stuck, the comfortable waiting space, the architecture and engineering magazines which were in racks on the walls.

Various features of a typical engineers office.

Over the last year, I have been collecting up the necessary items, my office now more like a storage room than an office. I contacted old colleagues for images to put on the walls (in time I hope to add to these with students own designs). I have secured the loan of large pot plants for a day a week, will be donating my own comfortable chairs and coffee table. I have also created a library of information that each group of 4 students will have access to, this has included writing two books to fill gaps in what’s currently available and I have subscribed to engineering and architecture magazines.

Over the summer I had a trial run, moving tables and chairs around to make it feel more like an office. The typical teaching space lectern and screen hidden behind a screen along with excess tables and chairs. Pictures were spread around the space (although I didn’t attach them to the wall at the time). Plants will be brought in. And students will be encouraged to personalise their spaces, making their desk and their team space their own.

Teaching space transformed into office space.

Of course one of the things I have learnt in my last 12 months as a BILT fellow is I can’t just have an idea and do it, there needs to be a purpose, a research question. And so I wrote out what I was trying to achieve. I iterated it, discussed it with my BILT mentor (Jane Pritchard) and eventually I came up with:

‘In what ways does simulating a professional design office influence students approach to their learning in Timber Engineering 4?’

Open large version.

I then tried to work out what I was hoping it would achieve. I looked back over the last three years of feedback I had had on my Timber Engineering Unit. What had worked well, where were their concerns. And I came up with a number of desired outcomes. I subdivided these into learning outcomes and professional outcomes.

Learning outcomes

1. Students to take ownership of their own learning

2. Students to more directly input what they are learning into what they are doing

3. Students to take ownership of feedback

Professional outcomes

4. Students to work sensible (office) hours and not work more hours than necessary

5. That both learning and assessment will be integrated so students co-learn and co-create

6. That students produce outstanding projects which totally blow me away. Projects which look amazing, have clearly used the problems/constraints of timber to lead to a solution and can articulate this.

7. That students will be able to speak to their experience in a professional context such as an interview and that it would add value for them in this situation

Over the next few weeks I will let you know how it’s going, talk about ‘authentic learning’, identity, feedforward and flipped teaching. I hope to learn a lot along the way and more importantly I hope that my students both learn a lot and really enjoy it.

An interview with...

An interview with… Lisa Howarth

Lisa Howarth is a BILT Student Fellow, working on the theme ‘Making the Most of our Teaching Spaces’ at the University of Bristol. As she comes to the end of her fellowship, she reflects on her time at BILT.

How have you found the BILT Student Fellowship?

It has been an amazing learning opportunity and a diverse experience; sometimes it involved discussing the use of facial recognition technology in universities and other times I found myself challenging students to build a tower with marshmallows and sticks! I began the year visiting the campuses of Northampton University, Oxford Brookes and Southampton Solent to see their innovative use of space and ended it supporting BILT at the Bristol Teaching Awards. In the middle I ran a workshop, interviewed students and produced a series of videos on student perspectives about spaces at UoB. It gave me access to a range of perspectives and encouraged me to reflect on my own views about pedagogy and teaching spaces in higher education.

What was most interesting about your project?

It was really interesting to discover the impact that space can have on mental health and wellbeing. A number of students talked about the anxiety associated with finding a space in the library during exam season or the anonymity felt when sitting at the back of a large lecture theatre. The majority of students mentioned natural light as an important consideration in a teaching or study space. This experience taught me that teaching space isn’t just about the layout of the tables or the colour of the walls, but that the space has an impact on the way that users behave and feel within it. A well-designed teaching space can promote active teaching and learning, which in turn has the power to promote supportive relationships and to encourage a sense of community.  

What surprised you the most?

One of the biggest surprises for me was that students were often more conservative in their approach to teaching and learning than academic staff. Very few students felt comfortable with the idea of scrapping lectures in favour of seminars and practical sessions, despite saying that these were the classes where they did the most learning.

What did you learn?

I had the opportunity to attend some thought-provoking Education Excellence seminars and one thing I learned is that there is a real tension around the purpose of higher education institutions; whether they exist to support thinking, learning and the creation of knowledge or whether they provide a service to students in readying them for the world of work. This issue seems to have been approached in a number of different ways, with some HE institutions making innovative teaching their main focus and others increasing their research output. The idea of ‘student as producer’, where students are involved in the creation of knowledge and understanding through supporting academic research, attempts to blur these boundaries. This approach, presented by Professor Mike Neary, was new to me and sparks a really interesting conversation.

What challenged your views?

The seminar by Professor Bruce Macfarlane challenged my idea that a teacher is responsible for encouraging engagement for learning. The argument that students, as adults, have the right to choose whether, and how much, they want to engage in sessions, was a perspective that I had not considered, having taught in compulsory education for many years. It raises questions about the extent to which students should be responsible for their own learning and what is really meant by ‘engagement’. Is the person at the back of the room absorbing information and reflecting on their thoughts any less engaged that someone participating in discussion at the front? As an undergraduate, the feeling amongst my fellow students was that attendance was the most important thing, even if we fell asleep in the corner or sat at the back of the lecture theatre eating ice cream! Perhaps discovering that engagement in learning is more important that attendance is part of a student’s learning process.

What did you enjoy the most?

Meeting all the fantastic and inspiring people involved in BILT, the amazing BILT team and the Student Fellows. I’d like to say a big thank you to the team and to the UoB students involved in our research for being so open and honest and for making this experience so much fun!

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Teaching Space as a Teaching Lab

The following post was written by James Norman, a BILT Fellow and programme director for Civil Engineering.

Today I continue my physical journey into the research of space as I embark on my third road trip of the year. I am back in Winchester, where I spent so many hours, ten years ago, when working on the Oxford Brookes project I discussed in my previous blog.

The reason for my visit is to revisit the architecture practice I was collaborating with to ask them their views on pedagogy informed design in higher education. Before I go any further I need to come clean, I am a huge fan of what they do. I really enjoyed working with them on Oxford Brookes and I have a great respect for their work more generally. And I am not the only one, they have been short listed three times in the last four years as Education Architect of the Year.

Photo provided by Design Engine Architects

I was expecting our conversation to be simple, straight forward and pedagogy-focussed. Instead it was wide-ranging, chaotic, with ideas flying everywhere. I tried to keep up typing away. But my notes are so wide-ranging it’s hard to know what exactly to say. So, I will do my best to summarise two different overlapping conversations.

The first is around pedagogy informed design, at some point about one and a half hours into our conversation I asked, “When you design a building do you bring a pedagogy or do you respond to the clients pedagogy?” to which Richard Jobson, one of the directors, replied, “it’s a bit of both and we look for common meeting ground. Our job is to challenge people. You can learn and talk to people and move your own thoughts on”.

This led to a much richer discussion about not just pedagogy but all the different competing stakeholders on a university project and how each one comes with an agenda, each one has set requirements and also a vision for the future. And each one is constrained by time, money, but also the needs of other stakeholders. And that the challenge to these ideas by the architect was robust, sometimes fierce and charged with emotion. We discussed how, in our collective experience, pedagogy can be discussed and agreed before a project starts (which the literature suggests is ideal), as a project starts, or some point further down the process, even sometimes after the physical building has started to be constructed.

This led to the discussion that unlike for other stakeholders like library services there is often not a dedicated group of people who are already engaged in conversations around pedagogy and space waiting for the next large building project, that these groups need to be assembled ad hoc (or even post hoc) to try and engage with the design process. As a result, it is hard to have pedagogy before a project and too often the pedagogy comes at some later point in the projects development.

Which of course leads to a bigger discussion, and one we will hopefully be able to respond to in time. Why don’t we have a group who are interested in pedagogy and space who are constantly active? Not waiting for the next project but creating their own. Who are trialling and developing teaching methods in different spaces not as a one-off event but as an ongoing discourse in pedagogy. Maybe the BILT fellowships in space are the start of this. But it strikes me this needs to be a long-term question. Buildings takes years (Oxford Brookes took 7) from idea to completion and we need conversations which understand this and develop with both the buildings and pedagogy.

John Ridgett, the project architect on Oxford Brookes, thought aloud “why not have a teaching lab? A space dedicated to trialling new teaching, both physical and digital. It could be a large warehouse with internal partitions which is designed to be constantly reconfigured”. This strikes me as a fantastic idea which I would like to explore further.

I headed out of Design Engine to walk along the road to their neighbour Winchester University. Here I can see Design Engines work in action. I am currently sitting and typing in one of their spaces. The campus is compact and vibrant with a multitude of lovely design touches. As I am shown round campus by Mat Jane of estates I am introduced to a number of people including Dave Mason who is literally in the middle of looking at furniture layouts. He describes how they, at a smaller scale, do what Design Engine were just suggesting. They trial room layouts, they play and see what works. They notice which rooms are popular and which are not, and they carry out surveys with both staff and students on which spaces they enjoy learning in. The teaching spaces became teaching laboratories.

Take the example below. One of the many observations of a teaching space is that the front rows are often empty. So they have provided different furniture at the front. Comfy seats and sofas, and suddenly the front third of the room is more heavily utilised. Of course, if this hadn’t had the desired outcome a different arrangement can be tried, and another, and another.

And so, as I reflect on my day, I am left asking myself “why haven’t I thought to do this before?”. It seems so simple, with hundreds of rooms, there is no reason why we also shouldn’t experiment, prototype and explore a wide variety of teaching spaces with a view to exploring what works and what doesn’t. Rather than wait and then refurbish large swathes of rooms with untested approaches we should play, learn, reflect and improve.

My sincere thanks go to Richard Jobson and John Ridgett of Design Engine (designengine.co.uk) for giving up two hours of their time to have such a wide-ranging conversation about the design of space and to Mat Jane who showed me around Winchester University with such enthusiasm and pride and also for all his insights on sustainability around the campus (including my free cup made from recycled chewing gum).

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Insights from attending UWE’s Festival of Learning for an afternoon

The following post was written by Emilie Poletto-Lawson, a BILT Fellow and Educational Developer in Academic Staff Development.

The Academic Practice Directorate at the University of the West of England (UWE) is the equivalent of Academic Staff Development[  team at the University of Bristol. They organised a week-long winter festival of learning [] after the success of their one day Learning and Teaching Conference which started in 2011. This year, they aimed to “create a buzz about Learning and Teaching to coincide with the NSS survey”. I attended one afternoon but it was fantastic to see students and staff come together to share their enthusiasm for learning and teaching.

The first half of the afternoon was entitled “Fresh approaches to T&L – A session in our new laundry space to get you inspired” led by Dr Laura Bennett (Associate director – academic practice directorate). The session included members of staff that delivered sessions in the new ‘laundry room’ as well as students that were attending sessions there but who were also using the room for extra-curricular activities.

I valued the opportunity to visit the Glenside campus of the University of the West of England to discover the laundry  room. At a time when a lot of thinking is going into teaching spaces in our University (BILT symposium June 2018 , BILT fellows working on space and design of Temple Quarter) it is always enriching to see what colleagues are experimenting with.

Before telling you about the presentation, let me tell you about the room. When we came in, it was a big empty space. I must say it had a medical feel to it, very white, sink at the back, metal shelves, not a warm atmosphere but perfect for its intended purpose: “a practical learning space for trainee optometrists, paramedics and occupational therapy students”. The facilitators were coming straight from another session on the other side of the campus so we had to build our classroom which was in itself a nice way to feel like we belonged and it was our space.

The room can be described as a “connected classroom”. There are four screens on both side walls, connected to a keyboard that enables students to use the screen as a group and it is also possible for the facilitator to show the main screen on all screens or to display the students’ screen on the main screen/all the screens. If you were able to attend a session during the digital classroom roadshow two years ago (June 2017) the set up was very similar apart from the fact that the tables were not fixed to the floor.

As the idea was to experience the technical aspect of the room we built our on wheels foldable table next to the screen and sat on high stools (not very easy if you have short legs like me) ready to roll. As I managed to sit down I realised my bag was quite far down from me on the floor and I had nowhere to put my coat. I was also quite far from the front as the room can open on both sides to create an even bigger space so the screens are at the back. Having moved the weekend before it did not take long for my back to start hurting but I was not quite sure what to do when another lady voiced the same issue and was given the option to grab a heavy chair instead of the stool. It was good to have an option but the chair was considerably lower creating some difficulties if you wanted to work from the table. Final hurdle for me as a non-native speaker, a fan covered the voices of speakers that did not use a microphone and it was a real strain to keep up.

However, despite all that, I still think it was a great workshop because it was about possibilities, about teaching differently and the space supporting your approach and ideas rather than limiting you. If you came into the room and lectured for three hours just talking at students, you would be missing the huge opportunities the toom has to offer to make your students more active, to encourage and facilitate group work, peer learning etc.

Laura Bennett introduced the aim of the session and presented key ideas from the literature regarding space and concluded that “Space should be what you need it to be”. The next speaker was Liz Reilly (Senior lecturer, social work) whose presentation “The Laundry in action – pitfalls and possibilities” gave a very engaging insight into the use of the room. Liz was very positive regarding the possibilities the room offered for learning and teaching:

  • Create groups based on theme 
  • Carousel approach – screens act as flipchart 
  • Moving from one table to the next made the students were very active 

However, she also picked up on the inclusivity issues I mentioned earlier and some other practical aspects.

  • Inclusion: comfort, high tables are a problem for people who cannot spent too much time on a stool and for wheelchairs, far away so lip read or hearing impairment 
  • Booking of the room, paperwork involved
  • Groups complained they could not hear what the lecturer said to specific groups 
  • Finally, being faced with one of her students lying on the floor to do back exercises despite the active approach she had in place was definitely not an outcome she expected.

Here are her pieces of advice:

  • Play around in the room 
  • Play around with what you are doing 
  • Log in ahead of your session and test everything: screens, keyboards, etc. 
  • Have a conversation with people managing the room 
  • Get feedback from students 
  • Get someone to observe you 

The following presentation, “Simulation: the Laundry as Emergency Room” byAimee Hilton (Senior Lecturer, Adult Nursing) took the original idea behind the design of the room and took it quite a few steps further. She transformed the Laundry into an emergency room treating the victims of a mass casualty event for paramedics, radiographers and nurses students. Drama students joined students paramedics, radiographers and nurses from other years to play the roles of patients. She also involved journalists students whose aim was to get as much in the way as possible journalists would should such an event take place. The university security team, fire brigade and ambulance crew also joined in to add to the realism of the situation. Did I mention professional make-up? Now, I must admit I would have loved to be a fly on the wall. The feedback from the students was extremely positive. It was very interesting that the hardest part of the planning was recruiting enough actors. I particularly liked the multi-disciplinary approach of the project.

The last presentation was by three students from the pre-hospital simulation society who study in the room but also used it for one of their events. The society provides “student led learning with the aim to facilitate realistic quality simulations to improve clinical competency and confidence within student Paramedics”. The Laundry is only one example of location, they have created simulations in a car, outside, during freshers’ fair etc. The idea is to design simulations of rare situations so that students are better prepared should it ever happen to them in their professional life. Each simulation is followed by a debrief at the end looking at what went well, what the literature says about such a situation etc. Their enthusiasm and commitment were exemplary.

Finally, Laura Bennet concluded the session with a tour of the side rooms and suggestions of technology to use to make your teaching more interactive. If you have attended CREATE workshops, you will recognize a few of those:

I am very grateful for the opportunity to attend the event and I feel I have learnt a lot. For me the main take away is that we need to make the space work for us and to be mindful of who will be in the room and how accessible out teaching as well as the room are.

Teaching Spaces Workshop (pm)

Description

Students, come along and have your say on the future of physical and virtual teaching spaces at the University of Bristol! As universities move towards more active learning, teaching spaces are becoming more flexible and adaptable, with traditional lecture theatres being redesigned to facilitate group discussion and collaboration. Technology is becoming better integrated into teaching spaces and students are expected to engage with online learning environments and participate in class via Apps. With all of these changes taking place, it is important that your views are heard! Should we get rid of lecture theatres? Should digital learning replace face-to-face teaching? Should libraries be updated to allow for group work and collaboration? This workshop will involve a range of short activities designed to elicit your views on how you would like teaching spaces to look in the future. Come prepared to talk, draw, drink coffee and eat cake! Bring friends! As a thank you, all participants will receive a £5 Amazon voucher. Spaces are limited!

Organiser

Lisa Howarth is a Student Fellow, studying at the University of Bristol and working for the Bristol Institute for Learning and Teaching (BILT) to gather student perspectives on teaching spaces.

Meet the BILT Student Fellows

Meet the Student Fellows… Lisa Howarth

We asked our Student Fellows to write us a short blog about their background and what they are doing as part of their BILT role. The following blog is from Lisa Howarth, who has been a BILT Student Fellow since December 2018.

I am currently studying for a MSc in Education and Neuroscience, which combines my interest in brain development with my career in primary school teaching. I am passionate about education as a means towards social justice and have taught in the UK, Hong Kong and California. In San Diego I taught a project-based curriculum, with a focus on equity, personalisation, authentic work and collaborative design. The level of student engagement was extremely high and their creativity, confidence and sense of social responsibility was inspiring. Although these children were accustomed to an innovative inquiry-based curriculum, where they were accountable for their learning and could think critically, they struggled when attending university.

The gulf between teaching in primary and secondary schools and teaching at university was particularly apparent to me after returning to higher education as a student after a break of several years. I believe that higher education should encourage and facilitate critical thinking, problem solving and collaboration, and that teaching spaces should reflect and inspire an evolving pedagogy. For this reason, I am very excited to be working on the project ‘Making the most of our teaching spaces’ as a Student Fellow.

I hope to gather views from a range of staff and students about their experiences and expectations of teaching spaces at the university, to encourage conversations around a changing pedagogy and to give students and staff a sense of ownership over their spaces. When undertaking this project, I would like to gain inspiration from the use of space in other teaching and work environments, inquire into a range of perspectives about current teaching spaces and to gather views on the future of teaching spaces, both physical and virtual. I look forward to working with many of you in the future!

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Update on the ‘Rethinking Spaces’ theme

Since the launch of the ‘Rethinking Spaces’ theme in June 2018, several things are going on.

The ‘Teaching Space Principles’ were formally signed off in October and are now available to be used as a guide when refurbishing or building new teaching spaces.  The ‘Teaching Space Principles’ are as follows, though you can read a fuller version via this blog post.

  1. Teaching spaces will allow all students to actively engage with content through appropriate design and technologies that support multiple modes of teaching[1]. The learning that takes place in these spaces will be accessible to all students
  2. . The University will foster a welcoming environment for students beyond timetabled teaching activities, to include social, learning and recreational spaces so that students’ experience of time spent at the University is coherent and integrated and supports their well-being.
  3. Teaching and learning environments will encourage active collaborative interactions between students.  Peer learning, multi-disciplinarity, in large or small groups, through and with technology, will be key to supporting students to create, develop and extend their own understandings and learning activities.  Teaching spaces should therefore be designed to an appropriate size to allow for meaningful and comfortable interaction.
  4. Our teaching and learning spaces will allow interaction between teachers, students and others, and will thereby encourage the active facilitation of student learning.  This learning environment will be flexible, incorporate appropriate technologies, and have space to move around in by staff and students.
  5. Teaching and learning spaces should be designed using the best current evidence-based practice and flexible enough to allow for emerging and future pedagogies.

Two of our BILT Fellows are focusing on teaching space. James Norman, a senior teaching fellow in Engineering and Christian Spielmann, a Reader in Economics, are both exploring the relationship between space and learning, though from different slants – James is looking at physical space design and Christian is looking at Bristol Futures and how his open unit uses digital space. Both have published blog posts, which can be found here. We have also appointed a student fellow, Lisa Howarth to explore this theme – her introductory blog post can be found here.

We are working on the links between pedagogies, physical and digital space.  To this end we are developing strategic plans to work with interested schools wishing to move to more active styles of teaching, learning and assessment and the link to the design of classrooms.  This brings together members of BILT, Digital Education Office (DEO), and AQPO. A pilot workshop was help with member of the School of Management and more are planned.

The inaugural meeting of the Learning Environment Committee (LEC) has been held.  This committee will take strategic oversight for advising the University on teaching and learning space.

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The A-Ha Moment

The following blog was written by James Norman, a Senior Lecturer in Engineering and a BILT Fellow. 

I am sure we have all been there, it’s the Monday before the start of term and as we do the final preparation and look at the time table for next week we notice that we don’t recognise the room number where we are teaching. As a matter of fact, we don’t recognise the building either. As an engineer I have taught in most buildings from the arts faculty to Maths to biomedical sciences. Every building has its own character (I particularly enjoy walking past jars full of animal parts and large skeletons, I feel like I am at the Natural History museum), and its own set of distinctive teaching spaces. Standing up to lecture for the first time there is an A-Ha moment. If I had known a few months ago I was teaching in here I would have done this differently. Of course, I could have checked the space out before hand (I always do, as well as sweet talking the porters of the building into accepting large bowed of my printed notes) but something about the moment you stand up to teach brings all the senses alive and makes you think, could I have done this differently.

As a practicing engineer I have spent many years thinking about buildings, drawing them, carrying out calculations. Even now I can describe in intimate detail every aspect of the new building at Oxford Brooks University which I worked on for 5 years. But I can’t imagine what it would be like to stand up and deliver a lecture there. And yet we often expect lecturers and other members of staff to look at the plans of buildings and do exactly that. Or even worse we give them 100’s of pages long technical specifications and expect them to make sense of them and imagine they are teaching in that space.

I would like to explore recreating the A-Ha moment as a tool for helping lectures think about the space they are going to be teaching in and more importantly critique it before it has been constructed. I would like to go one step further and explore whether we can use different virtual spaces to explore teaching and learning and the opportunity for innovation in rethinking space.

Finally, I was recently at a workshop on simulating living on Mars. At this workshop, organised by Professor Lucy Berthoud and Ella and Nicki, two artists who plan to live in a mars simulator for six months, we were discussing sensory deprivation. Many of us in the room assumed that if you wear a VR headset you can fool the body into thinking it is in a large field of corn not a tiny space capsule. However, Dr Ute Leonards pointed out that current research in embodied cognition is looking into whether the body needs full sensory immersion to believe it is somewhere else, that visual simulation is not enough. I am therefore interested whether my idea to create the A-Ha moment to test teaching space will be further enhanced by the smell of new carpet and the babble of excited students looking forward to a whole term of lectures on concrete. Whether the A-Ha moment is enhanced if you really think that you are about to stand up and teach?

For more information on the Mars project see http://www.ellaandnicki.com

If you are interested in helping to create a series of virtual environments or have expertise in the immersive experience please contact James at james.norman@bristol.ac.uk

 

 

 

 

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The Gap Between Pedagogy and Design

The following blog was written by James Norman, a Senior Teaching Fellow and a BILT Fellow since September 2018. 

For centuries universities have taught in lecture theatres. But the lecture theatre may well soon be a thing of the past. The new lecture theatre is the flat-bed teaching room. Or classroom to anyone who has been to school. The flat-bed teaching room offers many advantages over the lecture theatre. It is flexible. People can re-arrange furniture and work in groups. It removes some of the hierarchy between the teacher and the learner. But are flat bed teaching rooms really the solution to all our problems? Do flat bed teaching spaces really make pedagogical sense?

“Pedagogy needs to be explored through the thinking and practice of those educators who look to accompany learners; care for and about them; and bring learning into life.”

(Mark K. Smith, 2012)

Pedagogy is not about teaching. It is about learning. It is about understanding how people learn and by extension where people learn. I have been learning about pedagogy by reading in a coffee shop. Not in a flat-bed teaching room. I learnt to drive in a car, not in a flat-bed teaching room. We teach dentists the practical skills they need in a mock dentist’s surgery, not in a flat-bed teaching room. But what about lawyers and economists. Archeologists and historians. Where do they learn and how do we design spaces that work for them? So much learning occurs not in the lecture theatre OR the flat bed teaching space. So how do we approach the design of learning spaces and how do we keep pedagogy at the center of this process?

Is the solution rows and rows of flat-bed teaching rooms with movable partitions as suggested by the “Learning Space Rating System” (2017) or is it the use of metaphor to imagine our learning spaces as trees or gardens as advocated by The UK Higher Education Learning Space Toolkit? Professor Wright from the University of Bath would acknowledge both of these approaches as design strategies in the design of architectural space. But these are just 2 of 14 approaches. And Professor Wright’s approach is just one of many available design methodologies that can be utilized. So the question becomes how can we best combine pedagogy and design methodology to understand how to enhance the learning of our students. I don’t yet know the answers but I am looking forward to learning in unexpected places to try and find a new perspective on placing pedagogy at the heart of designing space.

Mark K. Smith, What is Pedagogy? (2012), http://infed.org/mobi/what-is-pedagogy/ accessed 14/11/18

Malcom Brown et al, Learning Space Rating System, Learning Space Rating System initiative, EDUCAUSE, 2017.

Gill Ferrell, The UK Higher Education Learning Space Toolkit, Universities and Colleges Information Systems Association.

Alexander Wright, Critical method: A pedagogy for design education, Design Principles and Practices, vol. 5, no. 6, pp. 109-122, 2011.

group of students on round table
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University of Bristol Teaching Space Principles

Introduction

The principles below are intended to provide a pedagogical framework for the design of teaching and learning spaces. Each of the five principles is oriented towards facilitating active interaction and ensuring flexibility as follows:

  1. The interaction of students with the content or material being learned. Encouraging active, tailored and accessible learning.
  2. The interaction of teaching and learning spaces with social and recreational spaces and the wider environment. Encouraging a cohesive learning experience and promoting well-being.
  3. Interaction between students. Encouraging peer to peer, cooperative and collaborative learning.
  4. Interactions between teachers and students. Encouraging the effective support and facilitation of research-rich learning by teaching and research staff.
  5. Flexibility in relation to current and future pedagogies. Encouraging evidence-based practice and innovation in teaching and learning.

 The Principles

  1. Teaching spaces will allow all students to actively engage with content through appropriate design and technologies that support multiple modes of teaching[1]. The learning that takes place in these spaces will be accessible to all students.
  2. The University will foster a welcoming environment for students beyond timetabled teaching activities, to include social, learning and recreational spaces so that students’ experience of time spent at the University is coherent and integrated and supports their well-being.
  3. Teaching and learning environments will encourage active collaborative interactions between students. Peer learning, multi-disciplinarity, in large or small groups, through and with technology, will be key to supporting students to create, develop and extend their own understandings and learning activities.  Teaching spaces should therefore be designed to an appropriate size to allow for meaningful and comfortable interaction.
  4. Our teaching and learning spaces will allow interaction between teachers, students and others, and will thereby encourage the active facilitation of student learning. This learning environment will be flexible, incorporate appropriate technologies, and have space to move around in by staff and students.
  5. Teaching and learning spaces should be designed using the best current evidence-based practice and flexible enough to allow for emerging and future pedagogies.

Notes:

By flexible we mean that there is no fixed furniture or if fixed furniture is used, it must allow for different types of learning activities. That tables and chairs can be moved easily into new and different configurations. Whiteboards will be available on many walls. Technology and charging points will be available for all users of the space.  There will be no fixed lectern, multiple screens will be available.  Storage space (for spare furniture) and storage space for coats, bags etc, will be available.

[1] Finkelstein, A., Ferris, J., Weston, C. & Winer, L (2016) Research-informed principles for (re)designing teaching and learning spaces.  Journal of Learning Spaces, 5 (1) 26-40.