17 SES 11, 1916-2016 - “Education and Democracy” for a Democratic Learning Space (Part 2)
Symposium continued from 17 SES 10
2016 is the 100 anniversary of John Dewey’s book “Education and Democracy”. Dewey wrote a handbook for educators that provides an ideal and democratizing tool for contemporary society. The work is not bound to a specific point in time or place. Much of its effectiveness stems from proposing a methodological and philosophical discussion without being normative (Jenlink, 2009). In architecture, we can compare Dewey’s work to the Leon Battista Alberti treatise, The Art of Building, where a humanistic architecture was proposed without providing images. Without images that might suggest specific solutions, Alberti nevertheless provided generations of architects with tools to rethink architecture (Alberti, 1991).
In this sense, Education and Democracy has been inspiring schools actors from different generations, different disciplines, and different geographies to change and to innovate education, through policies, pedagogies, and also spaces. These transformations were implemented in many different schools, some designed for specific educational methods, others adapted to this dynamic pedagogical practices. The aim of this double symposium is to debate learning spaces in terms of democratic learning practices as well as democratic design process.
Considering the “democratic learning practices” (part I), Dewey advocated an education focused on the student, in order to develop the student’s capacities for learning and more specially, for learning from experience. Dewey’s conception of learning was wide and open, “without barriers to free intercourse and communication of experiences” (Dewey, 1916, chapter VII). In this sense, education should be a social process that crosses the classroom limits and explores not only the school complex but also the city, a process that unfolds through dialogue with the community. In this sense, the learning and teaching process can be formal, informal or non-formal but it must integrate the cultural context of the school and use this to inform and shape the learning spaces (Hertzberger, 2008). In response, we ask two complementary questions:Can school architecture create conditions for a democratic education? And can progressive learning reshape school space?
The “democratic design process” (part II) can be seen as a lesson from Dewey. His proposal for democratic education is based on the construction of democratic methods of teaching and learning. This lesson has, in the past, been implemented by architects, politicians and educators to design schools. Such work was steeped in the understanding that space design could be enriched through an inclusive process, where all the actors contribute their views, share their experiences and help envision new realities. This type of participatory process gives the architect a broader perspective of the school culture and also creates conditions for the implementation of effective educational practices (Woolner, 2014). In this view, the proposed session poses two additional questions: Can democratic design process contribute for the democratic use of the learning space? Can democratic design process help foster better dialogue between architecture and education?
To conclude, although Dewey did not discuss the design of spaces in his early book, he did provide insight into architectural design in his Middle Works 1899-1924 (Dewey, 1983). In these, he included some diagrams of a school without classrooms, thus proposing a radical new way of organizing space for learning (Alegre, 2012, p. 90). This proposal gave more attention to informal learning spaces, in an effort to support project work and a culture of learning by doing, fostering a more democratic and egalitarian educational system (Burke & Grosvenor, 2008, pp. 119–120).
This session will map experiences, concepts and practices that can contribute to an increasingly democratic leaning spaces. It will provide cases studies from various countries that have implemented democratic design processes, seeking to foster democratic learning practices.
Alberti, L. B. (1991). On the Art of Building in Ten Books. MIT Press. Alegre, A. (2012). Arquitectura escolar: o edifício liceu em Portugal (1882-1978). Lisboa: Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian : Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia. Burke, C., & Grosvenor, I. (2008). School. Reaktion Books. Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and education: an introduction to the philosophy of education. New York: The Macmillan company. Dewey, J. (1983). The Middle Works of John Dewey, Volume 1, 1899 - 1924: Essays on School and Society. Southern Illinois University Press. Hertzberger, H. (2008). Space and Learning. Lessons in Architecture 3. Rotterdam: 010 Publishers. Jenlink, P. M. (2009). Dewey’s Democracy and Education Revisited: Contemporary Discourses for Democratic Education and Leadership. R&L Education. Woolner, P. (2014). School Design Together. Routledge.
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