Innovative Learning Environments: A critical review of its effects on teachers’ mind frames and student deep learning

Year: 2016

Author: Mahat, Marian, Imms, Wesley

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Since 2009, more than AUD$16B of public funding has been spent in Australia and New Zealand to build ‘innovative learning environments’ (ILEs). Characterised as having multi-modal, technology-infused, flexible layouts, these spaces accommodate the ‘digital native’ attributes of today’s learners. They provide what EDUCAUSE terms as facilities for unparalleled educational mobility, which accommodate socially-oriented, participatory, independent learning. However, while often well designed, what remains unclear is if ILEs have any impact on teaching practices and students’ learning outcomes. As a catalyst of change, empirical evidence is emerging that when matched with quality discussion concerning their use, ILEs can improve perceptions of the quality of teachers’ practices and positively impact students’ learning outcomes. However, limited studies have synthesised this evidence in a coherent way. The aim of this paper is to detail a research-informed review of recent trends, developments and scholarly research that synthesises existing insights on the relationships between teachers use of ILEs and teachers achieving deeper learning with their students. The critical research review will comprise two areas of enquiry: (1) research into teaching practices resulting in the use of ILEs; and (2) the measurement of teaching practices, in particular the capturing of evidence to explain teaching practices that lead to quality learning. In particular, the review will be driven to yield insights relevant to ILEs and its relationships to teachers’ mind frames and student deep learning. The critical review will provide a basis for developing conceptual and analytical frameworks to investigate the relationships between ILEs and students’ deep learning outcomes. In doing so, it will bridge the gap between the unrealised educational potential of innovative learning environment design and how they are currently being used. This is of significant importance because it directly addresses one of Australia’s key strategic goals of lifting productivity and economic growth, which requires building innovative and creative capacities within each sector of society. In a research area which is scant of empirical evidence of any alleged gains across the implementation of ILEs, this paper will provide a propitious opportunity to advance the theory and practice of ILEs.