An Update on the Innovative Learning Environments + Teacher Change Research Study in Australia
G’day Y’all! I’ve been living in Melbourne, Australia, as a Fulbright Post-Graduate Scholar for more than a month and my research work with the Learning Environments Applied Research Network (LEaRN) is underway. In my last post, I introduced my research project on Innovative Learning Environments and Teacher Change to better understand how teachers and students actually use the great spaces we design and create tools to help them reach their full potential in regards to teaching and learning opportunities.
The study is in full swing and currently under review for compliance with ethics protocols, which is an important step when embarking on academic research dealing with human-subjects. The goal is to minimize impact to the participants while still gathering meaningful data.
In the meantime, I will be visiting two schools that have been long-time partners with the LEaRN team - Woodleigh School and Churchie - to hone my methodology, test out interview questions, and sensitize myself to the particular ways of working in Australian schools. I also had the opportunity to meet the diverse class of Fulbright Scholars at the annual Presentation Dinner, where each scholar presented a poster on our research at the Parliament House.
In February, LEaRN hosted a two-day event entitled Talking Spaces where researchers, school leaders, and designers came together to discuss the latest and greatest school design research and issues. The conversations being held here are very much in line with those in the United States.
I’d like to share two key highlights from this event:
- Community relationships with schools is seen as a necessity to move forward in a time with limited funds but higher needs. Lee Callum, Director of Community Hubs and Partnerships in Queensland, gave an excellent talk on her state’s initiatives. Tidemill Academy in the UK is an example to which they aspire – a community hub with a school, library, affordable housing, business and art space, and shared recreation facilities all on one site.
- When it comes to real research, evidence is the goal. While there has been plenty anecdotal evidence regarding an innovative learning environment’s impact on teaching and learning, we are finally starting to see real evidence and real proof. One example identified a 7 percent variation in the student learning experience due to the design of the space. For your reference, 7 percent is the same amount of variation due to teacher experience.
Talking Spaces concluded with a story by Assoc. Professor Claire Newton. To paraphrase Newton: 'Just because you have a state-of-the-art kitchen doesn't mean you'll cook great food. To that end, however, a great chef can do amazing things with a small outdoor grill, though perhaps with some difficulty. The same goes for school design and educators.'
This is why I’m here – to help us all be great cooks! Follow me on Twitter (@Rae4Learning) and check back at dlrgroup.com for regular updates on my findings. If you have a specific question about the study use the ‘comments’ field below. I look forward to talking with you and sharing what I learn.