INF536 Designing Spaces for Learning

Blog for Designing Spaces for Learning

Critical Reflection

Designing Spaces for Learning has been an incredible opportunity to consider the entwined effects of buildings and pedagogy upon learning. I have developed my knowledge of what it takes to create integrated environments, where as Geoff Mulgan describes, students are “fighting to get in”.

My initial ‘small change’ for Blog Post One taught me that my students could lead an initiative to improve a poorly designed, challenging space. It has been interesting to see this evolve and how this class respond differently to spaces, taking the liberty to make changes in subsequent classrooms to suit their learning needs. My investigation of our new college spaces has enabled me to analyse processes and to have conversations with colleagues about successes and failure in our building designs.

I have some (amatuer) level of understanding of C-K theory, which although it was a concept that nearly made me quit, helped me understand the difference between innovative  design for learning versus an aesthetic room. I am absolutely sold on user involvement in design. It makes so much sense and resonates closely with spaces that have previously puzzled me regarding why they are underused or not treated with respect.

A month ago I had a conversation with a college executive member, where I advocated user involvement in the design process. I was told that user input was not regarded as important by the college. Shortly after this, the creative coffee morning enabled me to engage in conversations with colleagues, brainstorm a range of possibilities and critique the status quo. This activity encouraged many conversations following the formal event. Our college is taking a break from ongoing building works in 2015, however, recently our principal announced a ‘think tank’; arranging for staff to put forward ideas for the future  building works at our school, stating that all ideas will be welcomed. This appears a significant development in the college processes for building and it has been very encouraging to see this evolution. This development has inspired my confidence in the power of professional conversations.

I was creatively inspired by the Vittra School and other Scandinavian developments and am hoping to make plans to visit my Swedish connections and investigate these spaces in real life. I am inspired to learn from “strange” people who are not like me (as described by Maria Bezaitis) and hope to apply more of that learning to my future teaching. I am moving schools next year to work in a new, very contemporary school where innovative teaching and learning are expected. This is an exciting opportunity, about which I now feel equipped to combine pedagogy, space and technology to inspire learning.

This has been my first unit for the masters and I am looking forward to my continuing exploration of all things technology and learning in order to design, prototype, implement, fail James Dyson style, redesign and evaluate how to inspire learning in my teaching spaces in the ever-changing dynamic of 21st Century education.


Bezaitis, M.  2013 TED The Surprising Need for Strangeness. Retrieved from:

Dyson, J. Dyson Wall Street Journal (2009, September 13). Retrieved from:

Mulgan, G. (2011, July). A short intro to the studio school. Retrieved from

Runnquist, A. (2011, May 25). Learning environments based on learning, Research and Development Blog.[Weblog post] Retrieved from:

Creative Coffee Morning

Based on my discussions in completing this exercise, I consider that an ideal learning environment must be an effective combination of pedagogy, interaction, engagement and space. These elements are entwined and the end result of teaching without all aspects may be that learning does not happen. Due to time constraints, I have approached this task in three ways to work towards the requirements. Firstly, I held a meeting with my colleagues, including people in a range of positions, curriculum areas and non-teaching staff. Our college has quite isolated spaces and faculty staffrooms across a geographically large campus and therefore, conversations about learning with multi-disciplinary perspectives would not normally happen. Secondly. I brainstormed ideas with my Year 12 class and finally I asked my Facebook friends to describe their thoughts about ideal learning spaces, including a wide range of respondents. I then put together some of the comments in a video (link below) and had fun learning to video edit in the process.

Collated below are the ideas that came out of these three settings:

Issues that inhibit effective use of space to promote learning:

  • ‘Commander control’ structure (Juliet ICT coordinator) – staff even sit in rows in staff meetings – traditional practice sticks
  • Immovable furniture and immobile technology
  • Good teaching often occurs out of site, not on display for colleagues to learn from Bridget AP
  • “You can’t just throw kids into an empty space” – training and preparation are needed. Sally – Arts
  • Some staff take ownership of flexible spaces, others feel unwelcome to use unless timetabled in to space as a classroom.
  • Students largely prohibited from using spaces independently.
  • Other issues that can affect learning – physical discomfort, poorly resourcing, cluttered/cramped spaces

 Ideal learning spaces might be:

  • Welcoming, warm, safe, clean, uncluttered, large, well-ventilated, free from distractions, encouraging, inspiring, recognise learning of students with display, easy access to resources, effective working technology, different depending on student and activity, feel good, visually appealing, allow for flexibility and space to suit specific activities.

 Ideas for improving teaching and learning spaces

  • Break flexible areas with study ‘nooks’ for small group work with access to technology (Pat – graphic designer)
  • Make use of wall space for investigation and display of ideas; idea paint, magic whiteboards, pens on glass etc
  • Make opportunities to learn from one another (Sally – Arts Coordinator)
  • Work with college visible learning survey findings to plan PD and improvements of which teachers can take ownership (Brad AP Curriculum)
  • Enable more opportunities for team teaching in flexible spaces.
  • Through a peer observation process and/or student survey, identify individual teacher strengths in order to showcase effective strategies in teaching and learning through in-house PD  (Sally, Brad, Kath)
  • Combine practice and develop cross faculty teams to develop curriculum offerings that feature greater collaborative processes as well as structured opportunities to diversify learning (Kath – Year Coordinator and Anthony – RE and design teacher)
  • Listen to the student voice (Kath T&L)
  • Technology at SCC needs to become more mobile
  • Consider what needs to change to promote learning, then consider spaces to align with needs.


My colleagues were excited about the meeting at school and are keen to organise further opportunities to discuss creative ideas and plan for the future.

Accompanying video:  Lisa’s INF536 Creative Discussions

Comments added to other’s blogs:




Open learning space

As part of a large scale building project of a trade training centre incorporating an industrial kitchen and dining room, a large open space area was created on the top floor of the college immediately above the purpose built industrial facility. This upper space was a secondary aspect of the design and its purpose was not identified until late in the building project. It was commissioned as a ‘flexible learning centre’ and furnished with modern and relatively mobile furniture and carpet with patterns to direct learning possibilities. The goal was to create unique and new teaching and learning options and opportunities in an otherwise quite traditional teaching and learning school context.

The space also houses two classroom spaces with glass petitions and a glass walled faculty staff room. The staff room has been allocated for use by the Student Support Team (SST – supporting those with disabilities and other learning needs)

An initiation process was implemented by teaching and learning staff, who developed a plan and presented ideas to promote the centre use. This information was shared with all staff during staff meetings. An open door policy across all faculties was planned to encourage communal ownership. Part of the initiation into the space included the scheduling of faculty classes to use the space during lesson times to encourage team teaching, sharing of ideas and development of pedagogy for using open learning environments.

In its 20 months, this space is often empty during the school day or when used, regularly it is for lecture style presentations. Little innovative, flexible use occurs. Students gravitate to an area of fixed furniture in the back corner whenever they can. It is not open to flexible student use outside of structured lesson times.

In my investigations and interviews with colleagues about this space and its use, I discovered various points that indicate a need for evaluation of process in order to improve the outcomes for the use of this space.

  • As it was not purpose built, the arrangement of the space was more of an afterthought than a carefully designed learning centre.
  • There was no consultation with student or staff users about the design and final arrangement of the space. It was a process led by senior college staff.
  • Significant senior college staff changes occurred during the process of design and construction and ownership of the process was handed over to others.
  • Although communal ownership was desired, care of the space has been allocated to the SST which impacts its use by others
  • The acoustics were not initially considered and noise from the downstairs walkway and dining area can be disruptive.
  • Some consultation with resident faculty members regarding furniture occurred, but not with other staff users of the space.
  • As a very large space with some angular furniture, it can be hard to arrange in such a way that feels comfortable and makes good use of the space. Group work can feel awkward with the angular or rounded tables (that form a very large circle when grouped together)
  • There has been little professional development for teachers in regards to the variety of ways that they might use the space
  • Teachers have on the whole, not been informed about the carpet patterns as a directing device
  • In 2013, teachers were scheduled to use the space; however this may not have been the teacher’s choice and may limit their ownership of activities in these times. This process has not continued into 2014.

Essentially how might we implement activities in this room that enhance learning?

Some considerations:

  • It would seem that whilst improved learning may be desired and anticipated, it may not eventuate. How would we know? What can be done to enable this?
  • What measurement is in place to determine whether use of this space is a success?
  • What professional development could be provided to teachers to engage them in consideration of innovative ways they could utilise the area?
  • How can we prototype activities and use of space to consider improvements?
  • How can we evaluate improvements in the use of this space?

Images of space

Corner nook

Corner nook

Electronic whiteboard

Electronic whiteboard




View into void space


20140717_124343 (1)


Large round table configuration

Large round table configuration




Blog Post #3


Our college is a Canberra girls’ school, where quality, holistic, inclusive education for girls is of utmost value. Our school buildings will be 50 years old next year and all areas of the school were originally traditional, heavy school architecture. The school is generally still traditional in regards to teaching and learning. Over the past 5 years, extensive building work has taken place to upgrade and update areas of the college, providing a number of spaces that are open, airy and make good use of light. The new college cafeteria, opened in April 2014, is one such space.

The Problem

Our school cafeteria is a complete redesign of the previous canteen in the same space. The renovated area is visually appealing and feels more like a café than a traditional school canteen. Whilst this space was designed and arranged to be modern and comfortable, as Simon discusses, prototyping and careful planning can fall short of the reality and how the laws of nature will affect the final building (Simon, 1973: 188). In this case, the actual service area could be more serviceable. At busy times, it is a heavily congested space where students lining up for service are standing amongst students who are seated on ottomans, lounges and at benches. Once they reach the service area, there is a narrow walk through space between a wall and support pillar and bench. It then opens out to the service area where at times, students come in from the opposing side and access the service area without lining up. The actual service bench has two small spaces between bain-maries and another support pillar and these are the ‘windows’ through which cafeteria staff serve. It is relatively functional when not busy, but quite chaotic at busy times. The remainder of the room is well laid out with couches and tables, however it is often left quite messy at the end of breaks as, other than bins, there are no facilities for students to clean up after themselves.


The college Mission Statement includes the following ideas:

  • Valuing consultative, cooperative processes

  • Enthusiastic, hopeful and empowering

  • Committed to justice

  • Open to the poor



With these ideas in mind, we want to offer students:

  • Opportunities to act responsibly and have autonomy over their choices and decisions.

  • Circumstances that allow provisions for students with financial difficulties to access services

  • Spaces that are safe, with capacity for equitable use, in that no groups are perceived to ‘own’ a space

  • Adequate supervision and visibility through open design to maintain a safe school environment and limit chances of bullying and segregation, ” addressing ‘blind spots’ where bullying could take place ” (Queensland Government 2010, Page 30)

  •  A welcoming, safe, inclusive  space that is suited to relaxed, social interaction during break times.
  • Flexible usage, for example, that senior students may use the space to study on free lines, working collaboratively or privately

  • An opportunity to engage in the design process to assess the existing structure and suggest ideas


  • Columns that divide the space are structural

  • Large student numbers mean that at peak times the space is very crowded.

  • Creation of a safe and comfortable space requires consideration about furnishings, layout and clear requirements for the use of space.

  • A school cafeteria can be a financial divider between students as not all can afford to use the service

  • Students regularly leave mess in the space


  • Capacity in building regulations and budget for further renovations

  • Safety regulations in regards to providing microwave access for student use

  • What options there are in regards to mobile food trolleys

  • If it is possible to inexpensively change the access on the bain-maries

  • How the cafeteria staff would feel about watching for potential shop lifters and managing this should it occur

 Ideas for Redesign

  • In order to provide opportunities for autonomy, the relatively open space of the servery area could facilitate a walk through self-serve area, where users are able to self-select and pay for their purchases at a register at the end of the service area

  •  Rearrangement of furniture closest to the servery line up area to maximise space
  • To provide opportunities for inclusivity and allow the opportunity for all users to access hot food, a bench and divider could be incorporated with provision of microwaves for heating food

  • To provide an opportunity for responsible care of the space, cleaning equipment could be stationed on hooks on 2 of the support pillars in the room, with cleaning wipe dispensers located on a number of pillars throughout the room.


Existing layout



Draft layout one

Draft layout two - revised following group feedback

Draft layout two – revised following group feedback

Comments on peer blogs:

Patricia’s blog:

Monique’s blog:

Liz’ blog:


Engine Service Design & Walker Technology College. Dear Architect: The Vision Of Our Future School: Walker Technology College

Working Together: A toolkit for effective school based action against bullying. Queensland Government 2010.

Simon, H. A. (1973). The structure of ill-structured problems. Artificial Intelligence. 4, pp. 181–201. Retrieved from:

St Clare’s College Website.

Blog Post 2

Description of space


The area I have chosen to observe is my school’s cafeteria, opened as part of current building works earlier in the year. It is very different from the traditional school canteen and is essentially a visually appealing space, which has been set up with benches, stools, café style lounges, tables and chairs. I have focused on the main service area for this task and I have spent time observing the area before school, at morning recess and again at lunch time.

 20140801_085147 (1)  20140801_085145  20140801_085141  20140801_084515


  • Entrance to the service area is through double glass sliding doors.
  • A large bench and some stools separate the service counter from the area closest to the main entrance.
  • Two large planters continue the bench line to extend the division of the space near the service area.
  • Students move to the left around this divider to line up for service.
  • As there are often 2 staff members serving, students sometimes move in from the right to access the service counter at the right, jumping ahead of those who have lined up.
  • Students seem to patiently overlook queue jumpers and just wait and chat with friends
  • There are two narrow spaces between bain maries and support columns through which staff serve
  • The space in the line-up area also has benches and stools around the edge and a series of ottomans with a lounge against the windows.
  • At the start of lunch at the busiest canteen time, this area is very congested, with lined up students as well as people occupying the seating.
  • The walkthrough space into the service area is quite narrow, but opens out on the servery side of the dividing bench, where the ‘line’ becomes a bit disordered
  • The rest of the room includes lounges, tables and ottomans
  • After the main breaks some of the ottomans get left lying around the room in random places
  • Two teachers supervise the space during breaks. There was only one staff member on duty here but issues arose with rubbish left behind and the congestion in the space
  • There are a number of large support columns, as this room is on the ground floor with two floors above
  • The columns have dictated much about the layout of the space and have limited flexibility
  • Senior students rarely/never use this space during break times to sit
  • The floor is tiled
  • The lighting is quite low, ambient
  • Colour scheme is neutral (brown, grey, white black) with some red stools and ottomans
  • The room is cold as there are no heaters yet
  • There are approximately 1000 students enrolled in the school and at the busiest times, there would be approximately 200 people in the space.

Comments on peer blogs:

Bec’s Blog

Margo’s reflective journal

Jerry’s blog



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:

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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