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Developing spaces for learning

The physical space of a lecture theatre and didactic classroom setting were for a long time seen as the optimal teaching and learning space for tertiary education. Ongoing development and use of technology in teaching means it is now possible to bring much more diverse materials into the physical classroom setting, to bring the classroom materials into off-campus environments, and to create virtual classrooms that can be attended anywhere in the world. There are many interconnected locations and spaces that students finds themselves in when studying, such as private learning areas that are in the home, or informal learning areas such as the library.  As teachers we need to consider both the physical and virtual learning and teaching spaces, and what is required for optimal learning opportunities.

The spaces we inhabit impact significantly on how we process and retain information. For some, studying in the family lounge room or on a crowded bus works well, and others may prefer the quite space of a library or the park. Some will prefer to study on their own, whilst others will prefer to workshop as a group.

Metaphors of everyday learning spaces

In the Australian Learning and Teaching Council Report (2009), Scott Morris noted metaphors for everyday learning spaces as:

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A structured space in which students face a teacher and listen to traditional knowledge

An informal space where students can discuss, create and collaborate informally

A private space for independent and reflective work

A space for presenting work to an audience to demonstrate understanding

A structured space in which students face a teacher and listen to traditional knowledge

  • Lectures – A central podium and raked setting
  • Small group work – Flexible furniture that can be easily moved to suit the learning area

A space where students can discuss, create and collaborate formally and/or informally.

  • Small group work (formal) – Flexible furniture that can be easily moved to suit the learning area; online virtual learning session; online wiki; online discussion forum or live chats.
  • Social learning (informal) – Small spaces for small groups to spread out; gathering spaces near food/coffee outlets.

A private space for independent and reflective work

  • Private learning space – Quiet, comfortable spaces at home, student residences or libraries, with or without technologies

A space for presenting work to an audience to demonstrate understanding

  • Lecture/seminar space – A central podium and raked setting
  • Small or large interactive space – Flexible furniture that can be easily moved to suit the presentation or facilitation of learnings.