Importance of Learning Spaces

The built environment in education is often regarded as a platform for learning but plays a significant role in shaping the behaviours and attitudes of students. Buildings for learning are often designed without consulting the end users. Space utilisation is dictated by timetabling with no regard for planned learning activities. Little research exists on the link between pedagogy and the design of learning environments. This paper was originally part of MA dissertation exploring the architectonics of learning spaces, aims to reveal the effects of space on learning.

The research was carried out in a college environment on a group consisting of mature students undertaking a L4 in building technology who completed a questionnaire with some who later took part in a focus group meeting. The themes covered by both methods included types and qualities of physical space, the resource requirements, group sizes to investigate relational dynamics and preferred teaching styles. Whilst the findings are reliable, they are generated and confined to the experiences of the sample cohort and are by no means generalisable.

Towns and cities are designed to be pleasant and safe for their inhabitants, where people can meet and have memorable experiences. Shopping malls are designed to mirror that experience and buildings for education are essentially learning cities adopting the same principle providing students security and safety from the outside world. A student’s time in education is essentially a journey through learning and the city’s purpose should be to accommodate a quality learning experience. The learning city should, therefore, be a highly inspiring place bringing people together, encouraging discussion and collaboration. The findings of the survey facilitated the formulation of footprint, which can be used as a template to plan and design a learning city. A separate design for the classroom layout is based on those preferences expressed in the survey results for open plan learning, the library and lecture theatres are similar learning spaces – now used for group work – linked by corridors, squares and courtyards deliberately designed to encourage social interaction. A sense of ownership and belonging arises from having first class facilities and a rapport with fellow students and tutors having the positive effect of accomplishment and achievement. However, the opposite becomes the reverse when if one is denied access to resources and has no co-operation with those around them leading to a downward spiral into failure and stirring feelings of distrust and neglect.