The concept of “built pedagogy” (Monahan, 2002) suggests that “the design of built spaces influences the behaviours and actions of individuals within those spaces.” Designing teaching but also informal learning spaces with this concept in mind could therefore support these pedagogical approaches across campus. In the academic year 2015-2016, six underused areas within a UK HE institution were identified as having the potential to be redeveloped into a series of flexible informal learning spaces. These would provide an opportunity to experiment with designs aimed at supporting the institution’s stated aim of diversifying assessment and increasing the amount of group work set.
An evaluation of the effective use made by students of these spaces was carried out shortly after to assess whether student behaviours and actions matched the design intentions. The main purpose was therefore to measure to what extent (if any) the concept of built pedagogy applied in the context of this project. In addition, their findings led the team to consider other factors; such as to what extent does the pedagogical culture in the classroom, and more generally in the institution, influence its students’ behaviours and actions when using learning spaces and technology?
For example, the influence of assessment on student learning is expressed by Gibbs (2006): “assessment frames learning, creates learning activity and orients all aspects of learning behaviour.” If we consider the example of an established institutional assessment practice that relies on an individual and “surface” approach to learning, i.e. memorising information for a closed-book exam; how likely would students be in this context to adopt a “deeper” approach to studying that would involve collaboration and creativity, even when using learning spaces that facilitate it?
This raises the question of the relationship between pedagogy and space (or chicken and egg) as to which should come first. How does the pedagogical culture of an institution influence how its spaces are being used, and how do these spaces help shape the behaviour of its students and teachers when using them, thus enabling the adoption of different approaches to learning?
And why does this matter? In this session we propose to discuss these questions, drawing from our experience with designing the above-mentioned spaces and evaluating their use by students.
Gibbs, G. (2006) “How assessment frames student learning,” in Bryan, C. and Clegg, K. (eds.) Innovative assessment in higher education. New York: Routledge Falmer, pp. 23–36.
Monahan, T. (2002) Flexible space & built Pedagogy: Emerging IT embodiments. Available at: http://publicsurveillance.com/papers/Inventio.html (Accessed: 27 March 2017).