Month: July 2014

Blog Task 1

“Relationships and culture are profoundly shaped by space, physical and virtual.” Steve Collis (


I have just commenced teaching a one semester visual art unit with a Year 8 class. As a compulsory unit, the class involves many students who, as David Kelley described, will have lost their creative confidence. Alongside learning art skills, it is my desire to change my students’ perceptions of themselves as artists; building confidence and capacity. In my thinking and analysis of my classroom space I have sought to apply Steve Collis’ thinking. How can my classroom space be transformed to affect relationships and culture?


Problem Space

The classroom space that I need to use has many issues that inhibit human centredness, social interaction, collaborative learning and the ability to engage with autonomy for some of the following reasons:

  •  As a result of recent building works and a decommission of this room, there is no projector or whiteboard and students do not have devices for class use to research inspiration.
  • This classroom is part of the older school buildings and was not purpose built. It has large concrete support columns in the midst of the room and some awkward dividers for storage and kilns.
  • My use of this space is for a 5 week block only. This migratory use of space inhibits a genuine sense of ownership and with that the development of optimal relationships and classroom culture.

I sat in the student seats to see it as they would – empty, blank, boring, cold rows of desks. As described in my earlier blog post, I initially took ownership of the space myself and made changes to create greater accessibility to existing resources and displayed imagery related to task requirements and then thought of consulting my class.

To enhance student ownership, I asked students to find and display images that inspired their work process. Further to that, I attempted to incorporate the IDEO concept that “all of us are smarter than any of us” (Brown, T 2009) and ask my students for input about their classroom. Considering the Sztejnberg and Finch finding that “if traditional seating in rows dominates, so do teacher-centred approaches” (quoted in Blackmore et. Al, 21), I asked students “how might we” (Brown, T 2009) rearrange the existing furniture in the classroom to allow productive, collaborative, student-centred teaching and learning to enhance relationships and culture.

How did it go? After an initial (awkward) silence, discussion generated student ideas before it emerged that one student vehemently wanted things to remain the same! Therefore, a quick consensus did not occur; however, as the group dynamics evolved and one idea inspired another, it was suggested that the two  front tables could stay as they were and the back tables join. This idea allowed a resolution for my resistant student and a more collaborative workspace for others (some of whom had previously grouped themselves with an unworkable 7 at one table). It also created a group table for a student with some learning needs who had initially sat by herself.

Another result of my initial improvements is that other staff users of the space have also contributed ideas. It was agreed with the faculty coordinator that further visual resources – up to date periodicals, books and posters could be purchased to reinvigorate the space.



These minor changes have inspired a little momentum that, in time, may make a tangible difference to this space. Design thinking allowed me to identify a problem that needed a quick solution and consider options to make improvements. The human-centred approach of design thinking created a goal focus (improved space for students) and a focus on a view of things from the perspective of the main stakeholders. I stepped back to allow a process of collaborative thinking. The process has been flexible and it was interesting to see the unexpected outcomes – my colleagues’ contributions and ideas, different student perspectives accommodated – showing that a flexible process may enable unexpected outcomes to enhance the relationships and culture of my classroom.


Blackmore, J. Bateman, D. Loughkin, J. O’Mara, J. Aranda, G. (2001) Research into the connection between built learning spaces and student outcomes. Literature Review Paper 22. Education Policy and research Division, Dept Early Childhood and Early Childhood development Victoria.

Brown, Tim. (2009) Change by Design: How Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation. New York: Harper Business, 2009. Print.

Collis, S. n.d. Happy Steve: Innovation and Learning (biography) Retreived from

Kelley, D (2012). How to build your creative confidence. TED2012. Retreived from

Kimbell, L. (2012). Rethinking design thinking: Part II. Design and Culture, 4(2), 129-148.

Kuratko, D., Goldsworthy, M., & Hornsby, G. (2012). The design-thinking process in Innovation acceleration : transforming organizational thinking. (pp.103-123). Boston : Pearson.

Leifer, Larry; Plattner, Hasso; Meinel, Christoph (2013). Design thinking research : Building innovation eco-systems

Razzouk, Rim & Shute, Valerie (2012) What Is Design Thinking and Why Is It Important? Review of Educational Research, 82(3) pp 330-348.…What_Is_Design_Thinking_and_Why_Is_It_Important


Peer Blog Comments:

Matt’s blog:

Liz’ blog:

Margo’s blog:

Bec’ blog:

Impact of Space

Doorley & Witthoft (2012 p.30) impress upon us that space is something that can create an impact on the way we learn, work and play immediately. So, starting with what you have, make a change. In your learning environment, is there an empty space? Find one, take it and transform it, quickly. You might consider making a pop-up learning space from scratch for a short period of time, or adapting an existing space in a small way with the goal of making a difference to learning. Share your ideas or inspiration in the Forum.

What did you change or transform quickly in your learning environment?

Following my reading and hunt for ideas for our tasks I am seeing my classroom spaces with new eyes and an awareness of where they are falling far short of functioning as they could.

We have just received a dedicated ceramics classroom back that had been commissioned as the school canteen during our recent renovation. When I arrived for my first class in this room this week I discovered that the planned projector has not been installed, there is no whiteboard, the Year 8 ceramics class have no devices for research and the classroom shelves had only some very dated periodicals. I used paper, a marker and my own laptop with gathered students to deliver what I had planned and then realised this was a good space to reconsider.

Display is probably art teacher 101, but this white and grey space really needed (and still needs) a lift. I chose some good books and magazines to display on mini easels (as it is a rare day that my students would actually look through an unengaging bookshelf), added some examples of ceramic work and displayed a series of relevant images on some very plain concrete pillars (which I had amazingly never noticed before). Additionally, I have asked my students to find some images that inspire them which we will print and add to our display in our next lesson. Images are in the Flickr group.


Designed for a purpose

gym layout

 This is rough sketch of my gym layout. I thought this space was an interesting one in the context of designing for a reason, as most of the equipment in this space was part of a pre-existing gym in another, much larger space. When the owners were forced to move  to this smaller premises, they needed to plan very carefully around two main critical factors:

1. Ensuring there was adequate space between the various pieces of equipment for relative ease of movement and importantly for safety of users

2. Ensuring that adequate equipment was provided to ensure that members could continue to work with their preferred/necessary exercises

Added to this, they needed to ensure that all areas of the gym were visible on CCTV to maintain security requirements and to create a somewhat logical order to where equipment is located.

Over the time since the relocation there have been times when equipment has been moved or eliminated as the owners have continued to problem solve the small space. This has led to some user frustration and initial loss of some memberships, although it is steadily rebuilding now. I have on many occasions marveled at the fact that they have managed to meet the critical concerns numbered above quite well. Although the proximity is at times quite cosy, which may not be ideal, the placement of all machines in the tight space has been very well organised to ensure that whilst in use, no machine impacts on the use of another.

Other aspects that show that design has been given careful consideration:

  • Door that closes behind members on entry as required for the club security
  • Shelving space at entry for belongings
  • Cardio equipment at the front, allowing easy access for warm-up
  • Office right inside the door of the public entry (staffed during usual business hours – public door also open at this time)
  • Drink machine near member entry/exit
  • easily accessible bathrooms with a wall to separate from main gym space
  • ‘Express’ machine line – close to front, designed for patrons looking for a quick weight workout (I forgot to mark this on the drawing, but it is just in front of the bikes)
  • Flooring considerations depending on use of space, eg. padded/carpeted floor for main weight training areas

In regards to a purpose that may have been harnessed for another reason, there are quite a few ways that I have noticed people improvise when they have found a desired machine to be missing.

Thoughts on David Kelley video

David Kelley is an inspiring speaker and I enjoyed hearing his ideas. It is great to put a human face to such a successful organisation as IDEO. His recollection of the creative stifling that his fellow student experienced as a child resonated with me. I am currently an Art and Graphic Design teacher but did not come from the privileged position of being a naturally gifted artist or creative thinker. I had various teachers along the journey of school education, all with some level of ill-informed good intention, tell me that I was not good at Art. My fourth grade teacher laughed and showed my fellow students my very rudimentary attempt at drawing a koala in a tree. My Year 8 Art teacher told me I should not continue with Art in Year 9. I am not sure what spurred little Lisa on to reject the views of respected adults, but perhaps my desire to pursue and improve at something that I loved was stronger than the attempts to crush my perception of my talents. These are experiences I always share with my own students and I think they make me a better teacher. I see my Year 8 students grow in confidence when they hear my stories and see that I am quite a skilled artist in my adult life. They lift and try things out that they may not have if they were told they were either ‘good or bad’ at what they are doing. Then the A-E grading system comes in and stifles creative confidence again.

Another anecdote that Kelley reminded me of was a recent conversation with my six year old daughter. She was carefully and successfully working on a colouring page, painstakingly ensuring that all marks were inside of the lines. She had repeatedly asked me if what she was doing was good, which for her intended purpose, it was. I then suggested that whilst it is good to have that careful control, some good artists are in fact not careful or controlled in their art making. I showed her images of John Olsen and Mike Parr’s artworks, at which she gasped and agreed that they were not neat or tidy, but very ‘messy’! I explained that their intention might have been to express an emotion or experience the freedom of markmaking (in language accessible to a 6 year old). She acknowledged an understanding of my point before replying that she wanted to ensure her work was neat and tidy so that her teacher would say, “Well done” and give her an A, B or C, not a D or an E. Unfortunately at such a young age, social expectations and conformity are well ingrained and reinforced by our education system and by the time I meet students in my high school setting it is much more challenging to break through a student’s perception of their own creative ability. Kelley’s ideas help to reinforce the worth of this effort to change creative perceptions and to continue the effort to build confidence in the ability of my students to think creatively.

Just starting out

I’ve been immersing myself in the slightly overwhelming world of online study since I accepted my place yesterday. Not sure how ready I actually feel to jump into this deep pool but I’ll give it a go anyway. I’m starting my study with Designing Spaces for Learning and I am wishing that I had nothing else to do for about 48 hours in order to get a handle on things. Oh well, holidays start tomorrow afternoon and hopefully I will be able to jump in for a few good hours over the weekend.

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