Engaging Spaces: An Investigation into Middle School Educational Opportunities Provided by Innovative Built Environments. A New Approach to Understanding the Relationship between Learning and Space

By Ben Cleveland.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper reports on the approach taken in a current interdisciplinary research project that is investigating the relationship between ‘learning’ and ‘space’. The key research question being explored is, ‘How can middle school (Years 5-9) learning environments be designed and used to enable progressive constructivist pedagogies and improve student engagement in learning?
The study is focussed on the co-evolution of educational practice and the design of learning environments in three case study schools situated in Victoria, Australia. Social research methods have been employed to explore the relationships between ‘pedagogical practices’, ‘physical learning environments’ and ‘student engagement in learning’. New understandings attained through the study are expected to contribute to professional practice – architectural and educational - related to the design and use of middle school buildings.
In a departure from the positivist approach adopted by many researchers when investigated the learning/space nexus, this study has approached the issue from an interpretivist epistemological position. Historically, researchers have often undertaken quantitative studies that link student test scores to the condition of school buildings (Fisher, 2004). In this study a qualitative approach has been adopted so that the impacts of the buildings on the socio-pedagogical cultures of middle schools can be investigated.
This paper is written at the midpoint of a three year doctoral research project conducted as part of an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant entitled Smart Green Schools. The paper outlines the background to the study as well as the project’s objectives, methodologies, analytical frameworks, data and methods, and data analysis techniques. In the data and methods section a brief outline of some of the issues arising from the research are presented.

Keywords: Methodology, Interdisciplinary, Learning Environments, Pedagogy, Engagement, Constructivist

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 16, Issue 5, pp.385-398. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.494MB).

Ben Cleveland

Research Higher Degree Student, Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Ben Cleveland is currently enrolled as a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Architecture Building and Planning, The University of Melbourne. His academic background is in education and science. He is an experienced primary and secondary school teacher. Ben’s research focus is on the design of learning environments which can support contemporary educational philosophies and pedagogies. He has a particular interest in supporting processes of educational innovation.


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