Design and Pedagogy

My previous post offers a literature critique written as an assessment piece for my M.Ed. It’s not a great piece of writing but I did learn an enormous amount while undertaking and completing the research for this piece. My Evernote folder now holds 6o pieces of literature collected during this deep and rich learning journey, exploring design thinking, processes of design and pedagogy.

A real gift was to discover the work of Kim Dovey & Kenn Fisher from the Faculty of Architecture, University of Melbourne.  Their publication provides an engaging exploration of the link between planned learning spaces and pedagogy. Any educator will find this publication a great piece to reflect on and perhaps deepen their understanding of classroom practice. It provided some pleasant surprises:

Of note:

The traditional classroom is a product of a teacher-centred pedagogy…

In the past I always grimace at ‘badly designed’ classrooms. However, this reading  has made me realise these ‘egg-crate’ classrooms were designed for a purpose. A purpose that now grates on us all.

Student centred pedagogies are seriously constrained by traditional classrooms…

This I know, as I have taught in traditional classrooms as well as those that are more flexible. The difference is stark. What always intrigues me is how classroom design changes both student and teacher behaviours.

Changes in the design of learning spaces is being driven by changes in pedagogy…

Behaviourist through to cognitive and now constructivist. This we know but the tension that exists between design and pedagogy is intriguing.

Pedagogically supportive school architecture…

This is a lovely thought. This comment reminds me of the many downright awful classrooms that I have taught in and the need for classrooms that support good pedagogy. This is an issue that is deeper than funky furniture and nice colours. Space can define how we teach: Stop and think on this idea.

Dovey & Fisher also presents a typology of student-centred pedagogies and a matching typology of learning spaces.  This is very interesting and worth further exploration. Perhaps in a future post. 🙂

What is particularly intriguing  is the description of the classroom as a ‘disciplinary technology‘ – “where the gaze of authority works to produce a normalised and disciplined subject” (p. 43).  The paper talks about links between design and behaviour – practises of power. This idea certainly strikes a chord with me. I have learnt from experience that at times putting in place a student centred pedagogy leaves some (many?) students feeling abandoned and ill-at ease. What I conclude from this is that students and teachers need to be supported in transitioning from one style of pedagogy to another. What then if they find themselves in redesigned classroom? Or, transitioning from new back to old…it happens.

The goal of Dovey & Fisher (2014) is to deepen the engagement of both architects and educators in issues of design and pedagogy.  Their writing certainly has achieved this from me. My eyes have been opened by a study of design thinking and the need for educators to develop an awareness of the link between learning space design and pedagogy

Please gift me with your thoughts and reflections.


Dovey, K., & Fisher, K. (2014). Designing for adaptation: the school as socio-spatial assemblage, The Journal of Architecture, 19:1, 43-63



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