INF536 Case Study

Part A: Case Report

Introduction

This case study focused on the development of a Senior Study Area (SSA) within a secondary school library space in South Australia. The concept was to create a space for senior students to study and research under supervision with access to assistance from teachers, the teacher librarian and other library and IT support staff as required by students. This space was to be a temporary space for 2014 as the SSA would be moved to a senior school space in 2015 which was under development in 2014. This case study outlines the development and analyses the choice of process; latent or existing attitudes and assumptions; and exterior pressures and design constraints. It also offers recommendations for the teacher librarian and school professionals about the incorporation of study spaces in the secondary school library.

Case Development

The brief was to create a study area under supervision for Year 11 and 12 students. An area had been set aside in the main library space at the end of 2013 when it had a minor upgrade. The library was divided into three sections by a change in carpet line for the three main spaces. This carpet line is visible in figures 2 – 6.

The SSA has been a designated area for senior students in 2014. The SSA was initiated to assist Year 11 and 12 students who had study lines to complete related school or Vocational Education and Training (VET) work as required by the South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE).  Requirements for SACE can be viewed on the SACE website (“South Australian Certificate of Education | SACE,” n.d.). The concept was to support students achieve success in the completion of the SACE by Year 12 students. There has been a large push to improve the retention and SACE completion rates from a state level. The school has up to 4 study lines for Year 12 students (Eckert, 2014i). This allowed students to complete work and research as required under supervision and with access to assistance if required.  This was a new undertaking for 2014. Previously students had worked in their own choice of location without supervision. This lead to concerns expressed by staff about duty of care which teachers have a responsibility for (“Duty of Care: Duty of care owed by teachers,” 2007). There were also concerns about students’ respect and pride of school property (Eckert, 2014j). From 2015, students will be located in a senior school centre in another part of the school which is being redeveloped. The SSA has also been an open planned computer classroom and a teaching open classroom space in the previous three years. In 2015, the space will change from SSA to, most likely, an open planned class area as there are other developments planned for the library space in the near future. The re-designing of the space was based on student interactions and the need to support and enhance student’s learning and study habits which at times was severely impacted by the design the space and the student interaction resulting from the layout. Student interactions were often seen as not helping their learning, as their appeared a large social component in the usage of the SSA. Part of the process involved moving the furniture around in the SSA. There have been six layouts trialled over the course of three terms. This process was lead mainly by the teacher librarian, with support of the library school support officer and the senior school coordinator. There was minimal direct input from the student’s perspective.

Critical Analysis

Choice of Process:

Prototyping of ideas is suggested by many design theories (Brown, 2009; Hatchuel, Le Masson, & Weil, 2004; Kelley, 2012; Kuratko, Goldsworthy, & Hornsby, 2012). The SSA was prototyped into new layouts easily and frequently, after observation of the space usage. While a prototyping and an iterative process was undertaken by library staff in regard to the re-arrangement of the SSA, there was little direct involvement of the students in the process. This is Service Design Thinking – Book trailer (2011) suggests that all stakeholders in the space should be consulted or at least considered as they are co-creators of the space. Feedback was requested by students on their thoughts on the current layouts at times. However, many of the changes in layouts were driven by the supervising staff of the SSA.

Literature suggests that there should be a variety of spaces available for different purposes. Dovey & Fisher (2014) suggest presentation, large interactive, medium interactive, creative interactive, small interactive and reflection spaces are useful for learning. Kuuskorpi & González  (2011, p. 6) suggest three environments for learning: reflective learning, creative learning, interactive learning.  Campfires, watering holes and caves are also spaces to consider (Thornburg, 2007).  JISC (2006, pp. 22–23) also suggests a variety of spaces in a learning centre, which is similar to the SSA concept used.  Small group interactive spaces (2 – 5 students) and reflection/individual (1 – 2 students) spaces are of particular use in a SSA as it is not a direct teaching space. This need to supply a variety of different spaces in the library for the SSA, meant that several prototypes were undertaken to offer these spaces. Early prototypes only offered access to one designated group space, the Senior Study Breakout (figure 1) (Eckert, 2014a). This space was not changed throughout the case study as it served its purpose appropriately. There were a number of students who regularly used this space rather than the SSA as it appeared to be a quieter option for focussed study. Initial layouts of the SSA had students in rows (fig. 2, 3, 4) (Eckert, 2014b, 2014c, 2014d). Observation led to the realisation that group spaces were needed by students as the behaviour and re-arrangement of the space by students demonstrated this. Thus layouts 4, 5 and 6 (fig. 5, 6, 7) (Eckert, 2014e, 2014f, 2014g) have included group and individual spaces.  Layout 4 (fig. 5) had large groups of students around the two designated group tables, which were more social in nature than learning focussed which lead to Layout 5 (fig. 6) being created with more group spaces. However this led to many students using this space as a social space rather than a learning space in smaller groups. Layout 6 (fig. 7) allows a more even blend of group spaces and individual spaces. There is a table near the right of Figure 7 which is able to change from an individual space to a group space if students require more than two group spaces in the SSA with the addition of ottomans or chairs.  

Figure 1: Senior Break Out

Figure 1: Senior Break Out

Senior Study Layout #6

Senior Study Layout #6

Senior Study Layout #5

Senior Study Layout #5

Senior Study Layout #4

Senior Study Layout #4

Senior Study Layout #3

Senior Study Layout #3

Senior Study layout #2

Senior Study layout #2

Senior Study layout #1

Senior Study layout #1

Latent or Existing Attitudes & Assumptions:

There were a number of existing and underlying attitudes and assumptions for the creation of a SSA.  Being aware of these underlying attitudes and assumptions helps to explain why this space was required by the school.  Also being aware of the research into study spaces helped with this. This adds the knowledge space as indicated by Hatchuel et al (2004). By defining what is known about the space which is being re-designed it helps to be able to reflect on the effectiveness of the prototyping and iterations that are undertaken to develop the SSA into the most appropriate layout for the current senior student cohort.

Some of these attitudes and assumptions include students must be supervised (“Duty of Care: Duty of care owed by teachers,” 2007) and students not appearing to be able to work away from supervision (Eckert, 2014j). Other observations of students indicate that a number students are not focused on completing all their school work so that they pass and achieve their SACE with an underlying attitude of “the teacher will help me get there even if I don’t put much effort in” (Eckert, 2014k). This is similar to the helicopter parenting concept which is becoming prevalent in some cultures (“Helicopter parents could do more psychological harm than good,” 2013). Teachers are just as adept at being the helicopter rescuer as parents (Clifford, 2012; Patty, 2010). Students at the school have some experience of this in earlier year levels.  Some students selected subjects that required minimal work to be completed outside the classroom (Eckert, 2014k). Another concern was the language and content of conversations that were overheard by library staff. Some of this was not appropriate for the semi-public setting of the library and the possibility of younger students hearing the conversation. Some of the content was of a MA15+ rating (“Classification categories explained Classification for films and computer games,” 2013) while not a film or computer game, the content verbalised did fit into this category.

The suggestion by literature of different spaces which benefit learning also influenced the SSA (Blyth, 2012; Dovey & Fisher, 2014; JISC, 2006; Kuuskorpi & González, 2011).

Part of the SSA service provided by supervision was to help students who required assistance. This assistance could include proof-reading work, helping students understand concepts in various subjects, creating bibliographies, and locating information. It also included demonstrating considerations for appropriate context for discussions that may not have been appropriate for the location. Encouraging appropriate usage of the space by students, particularly in completing work and conversations was one of the main requirements of the supervising teacher.

Exterior pressures and design constraints: There were a number of exterior pressures and design constraints for the SSA.

Part of the reasoning behind the creation of the SSA, was the need for students to successfully complete their SACE, including their Research Project (Eckert, 2014i). Success for the school is partially seen as success in SACE completion as it can be a selling point for schools in South Australia, often used in publicity information and as part of the MySchool profile about Year 12 completion and awards (Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, n.d.-a, n.d.-b, n.d.-c, n.d.-d, n.d.-e).

Another constraint for 2014 was the available space within the school site for the SSA. The school is currently undergoing major capital building works for a new Arts Centre which required the Arts faculty and students to be located in other spaces while the capital works is completed. This has condensed the available spaces for the SSA further. Part of the capital works is the redevelopment of an upper wing which will house the Senior School Space from 2015. This work has also limited the money available to upgrade the furniture in the SSA. The tables in the SSA are not conducive to creating group spaces as the dimensions are a little large and there are bars along the lower edges of three sides of the tables. The library had a minor upgrade to update the carpet, paint the walls and have new pin-boards installed (Eckert, 2014h). This has helped the overall atmosphere of the library. It would have been helpful to consider the acoustics of the space in more detail; the pin-boards are supposed to be noise reducing, to encourage the lowering of distractive noise (Treasure, 2012). Room dividers were considered briefly both as a noise reduction method and a delineation of space; however money was not available for this concept to be implemented for one year of SSA in the library. These have been implemented in the planned Senior School Space for 2015. The delineation was clear in the carpeting line and this was deemed sufficient.  Study carrels were considered but the principal decided that these would not be useful as students had the opportunity to work elsewhere if required. This was requested by students for the SSA. The rows of desks along one wall were deemed to attempt to cover this option. The walls were considered as motivational and informational spaces similar to Rosko & Neuman (2011) in that displays in the SSA showed opportunities for further tutoring services, other related services, information on post-school options and motivational posters.

Recommendations

There are a number of recommendations for implementing a SSA in a secondary school library. These include ensuring that students understand how the space is envisioned to be used, student involvement in adjusting space/s, and support from administration for behaviour management if required, providing a number of different types of spaces, noise controlling methods.  It also includes considerations for supervising staff and student ratios. It is also important to reflect on the size of the available space.

Encouraging students to be aware of others in the SSA is a large component for the SSA to work at its most effective.  If students are not able to consider those who would like to have less noise, there will be issues in the use of the space. It flows on from the basic classroom rule; students have the right to learn and respecting others learning (Modbury High School, n.d.; Shenton College, n.d.; St John’s Regional College, n.d.; Tatachilla Lutheran College, n.d.).  It would be preferred to think that a course in civilities would not be required (Connelly, 2009). This may require the supervising staff to intervene more regularly than desired, or involving administrative staff for repeat offenders. Having the support of the administration will also allow other points of view to be considered within the wider school context. Consideration for more than just senior students using this space may be one factor in this.  Attitudes regarding the SSA usage by students would depend on the local school setting and the senior school student cohort at the time. This will also depend on how closely the various spaces within the SSA are located and the acoustics within the space.

The three main spaces to consider offering in a SSA would be individual study spaces (quiet or minimal noise), small group spaces (low level noise) and discussion (low to medium level noise) spaces (Dovey & Fisher, 2014; JISC, 2006; Kuuskorpi & González, 2011; Thornburg, 2007). Presentation spaces are unlikely to be required in a SSA and thus could be ignored when considering spaces; however the possibility of including a space where a presentation could be recorded with minimal background noise, would be of benefit for some students for external assessment requirements.  Students should also have the chance to move furniture within the space as required as they make the space their own to learn within including not using furniture as expected but in an appropriate manner (Leeson, 2014; Sellers & Souter, 2012). Being agile and flexible in the possibility of re-arrangement of furniture would be helpful as then students can claim ownership over the space as well (Blyth, 2012; JISC, 2006). This may reduce some behaviour issues and may assist in positive peer pressure in the appropriate usage of space.

Noise or acoustic reduction would be of benefit to consider if finances allow (Treasure, 2012). Some volume of noise could be beneficial to some students (Mehta, Zhu, & Cheema, 2012; Popova, 2014). It is the high level volume that is recommended to be discouraged by students as this is more likely to impact negatively on student learning.  Room dividers may be of assistance to define the different spaces to students, and to reduce noise, but not required as indicated in learning commons examples (Dovey & Fisher, 2014; JISC, 2006). It would also be useful to consider see through dividers to allow easier supervision and transparency of the space usage (Blyth, 2012).

Being aware of student numbers within the SSA will also impact on staffing. This will vary depending on state or governing jurisdictions requirements as they may have varying staffing ratios, class sizes and rules of who may supply supervision of students (Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, 2013; Department of Education, Training and Employment, 2014; Government of Alberta, 2006; Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, n.d.; “South Australian School and Preschool Education Staff Enterprise Agreement 2012,” 2013).   At times, there may be less than a standard class  size or a whole year level or more potentially using the space at the one time (Eckert, 2014a, 2014b). This will also depend on the local school timetabling construction. The constraints on the student numbers using the SSA will also affect how the space can be rearranged, particularly if the room dimensions are tight.

Conclusion

The creation of a SSA is worth considering for a secondary school in the twenty first century. The placement is not required to be in the library space but many of the support facilities may be best offered by the library staff. Ensuring that staff and students understand the concept of a SSA and that students are willing to embrace the independent learning styles encouraged by the SSA will allow effective use by students and staff. Considerations should be made for the types of spaces created, particularly, individual, small group and discussion group spaces. The placement of the types of spaces should also be considered to allow students to work in a productive manner, best suited for the learning that they are focussed on at the time. Noise or acoustic reduction methods are worth considering for encouragement of effective learning by students.

Reference List

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