Teacher Transition Pathway: Building teachers’ spatial competency and learning in the 21st century

Year: 2019

Author: Mahat, Marian, Imms, Wesley

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The Innovative Learning Environments and Teacher Change (ILETC) project aims to help teachers better understand the way the physical learning environment as well as innovative teaching practices affects the quality of student learning. Utilising a range of quantitative and qualitative data collection methods (including systematic literature reviews, a series of teacher workshops, a survey of principals, case studies as well as symposia and think tank meetings), data was collected in Phase 1 of the ILETC project involving 1,300 participants internationally. Analysis of data from Phase 1 was emergent and took the form of thematic analysis and content analysis. Additionally, face and content validity were established through online forms and workshops involving 143 international participants.

Our findings found that innovative learning environments are not a magic cure, but evidence is mounting that they constitute a powerful tool that - if used well - improves student educational experiences. The results show that schools (and teachers) navigate a transformative journey as they reimagine their learning spaces. There are three phases in the process of creating new learning spaces—early, implementation and consolidation—during which commonalities exist (the ‘Transition Themes’) but are applied in highly personalized ways (the ‘Pathway’). Taken as a whole, the ‘Teacher Transition Pathway’ constitutes the pathway(s) along which teachers and schools travel as they move from traditional to more innovative learning spaces.

As well, our findings emphasise that successful spaces host a unique diversity of teaching, learning and environmental qualities that can assist teachers navigate their pathways. These can be viewed as a framework of typologies which categorise the different elements in developing effective learning spaces. We currently identify five: spatial designs, teaching approaches, furniture, acoustics, and ICT. Importantly, they constitute the mechanism for making tangible to teachers what needs to be known about good use of learning spaces. The typologies are, in essence, a teacher-friendly, practice-focused summary of the mass of theoretical knowledge we have collectively built about innovative learning environments.

The Teacher Transition Pathway offers the educational community a theoretical and practical resource that supports the building of spatial learning capacity in schools. By building teachers spatial competency to affect student learning, this paper provides a propitious opportunity to direct meaningful and sustainable improvements in teacher practices and student learning in a socially just world.