How built spaces influence educators work: Using a practice lens

Year: 2021

Author: Blackmore, Jill, O'Mara, Joanne

Type of paper: Symposium

Governments have invested in redesigning built environments in schools with the assumption embedded in both the architectural and educational literature that  a well-designed built environment will improve teaching and learning practices. A literature review of The Connections Between Learning Spaces and Learning Outcomes found research has focused on the design phase of schools, but less research has been conducted on processes of transitioning into the new buildings, and even less on the pedagogical practices and professional learning required or evaluating innovative practices once in the new spaces.  The following Victorian Department of Education project Innovative Learning Environment Research Study of 12 Victorian schools was based on OECD criteria of an innovative learning environment, more collaborative teaching practice and pedagogical innovation emerged to be closely associated with new built environments. The 12 schools included a range of school provision (primary, secondary, P-12 and community-based) in more and less advantaged communities.  Each school innovative learning environment adopted one of three broad approaches: year level programs, whole of school and community based. Methodologically, a range of visual and conventional qualitative methods were used: mapping, student photography, interviews, observations and videos of principal walkthroughs describing the intention and use of the learning spaces. These focused on teacher and leadership activities and the pedagogical, design and organizational (temporal and spatial) practices. The cross-site analysis of the case studies found that in order for schools to fully benefit from the affordances of the redesigned built space and connectivity of mobile technologies, putting the professional learning of teachers first was necessary to both initiate and sustain innovative pedagogical practice. This paper draws on practice architecture theory to illustrate how the conjuncture of material-economic context of redesigned built environment and technologies ( resources available to schools and their location), the cultural-discursive assemblage of discourses regarding the needs of 21st century learner-earners ( and how this articulated into the curriculum and pedagogical focus) and the social-political context of policies (funding and system support) enabled action-oriented teacher professional development. These conditions shaped the conduct of practice, that is, the ‘sayings’, ‘doings’ and ‘relatings’ of teacher professional learning both within each school and across the Victorian public system in ways that encouraged the development, in many instances, the pedagogical repertoire of teachers and indicated how the focus on innovation in professional practice that was driven by schools was facilitated by systemic support. n