06 SES 07 A, Space, Community & Distance
Mapping networks is a technique used to collect and relate different aspects of a spatial phenomenon in order to acknowledge its particular geography (Venturini et al., 2019). It seeks to explore, represent and discuss it, by involving different actors in an interpretable network (Latour, 2005). The representation of these networks becomes an important tool that explains how certain phenomenon works, disclosing meaningful patterns and information. In turn, it also allows communities to engage with spatial problems and to propose informed changes (Ferreira & Moniz, 2018).
This is particularly relevant for schools, whose overall networks of students’ uses are deeply embedded in the space’s material definition, which can be continuously adapted to better suit the contemporary social and educational realities (Coelho, 2019a, 2019b). Furthermore, the learning process is strongly associated with patterns of co-presence and knowledge transmission by peer communication and social dynamics that occur on active learning environments, often informal and conveyed on an array of collective school spaces, whose significance has to be accounted for when mapping student’s uses of school. Moreover, schools’ spatial definition has to accommodate the continuous change brought by the pedagogical curriculum, technological development, faculty and student spatial fruition (Coelho, 2017).
Understanding educational spatialities, by mapping students’ uses of the school and the city, relates the school community with material and immaterial aspects of space and it also enables the development of a close and collective engagement with each school’s spatial problems at several scales. Additionally, the understanding of the educational environment is more comprehensive by relating students’ activities with their urban surrounding space, whose interaction is similarly important to analyse (Moniz & Ferreira, 2016).
Therefore, it is desirable to develop innovative resources that empower the school as the centre of an educational community, facilitating the dialogue between the different agents and placing it at the service of a holistic formation of young people in their life contexts. Thus, it is essential to enhance the school's connection with the reality in which it operates, in an inclusive manner, maximizing the responses that articulate instruments for management, learning and transformation of the physical contexts. This involves the study of the forms of communication within the school, and between the school and the different agents of its territorial ensemble, aiming towards the creation of a dynamic network, managed locally, which allows:
. the provision of a space for knowledge and exchange of adequate educational practices;
. the sharing of information between different institutions with political, social, economic and cultural accountability;
. the empowerment of the territory as an educational resource;
. the creation of collaborative networks of learning, contributing to transform habits of study, leisure and citizenship intervention (Alcoforado et al., 2018; Cordeiro & Alcoforado, 2018).
The proposed paper presents an interdisciplinary research that is currently taking place in Portugal, as a part of an Erasmus+ funded research project, with five other international partners, aiming to develop user-friendly tools to enable school practioners to better perceive school spaces in regard to their learning potential and, ultimately, to potentiate change by means of inclusive processes with all the school community.
Under this context, the Portuguese team, composed by researchers from architecture, geography and the educational sciences, all with school expertise, has developed the “Survey on Students School Spaces” (S3S) tool that is being applied to Portuguese case studies with distinctive features and that will subsequently be applied internationally. This will test both the tool as a means for knowledge acquisition on students’ uses, but will also provide outputs on whether different spatial, social and pedagogical contexts influence student’s spatial dynamics towards social relations and student achievement.
The tool is composed by milestones that imply an initial understanding of the school space, the students’ patterns of uses in space, the detailed interpretation of these dynamics and the provision of outputs that may inform the school’s agents for more robust decisions on future refurbishments. This is undertaken by two main tasks as follows: . Task I aims at collecting data on uses by querying the students on their activities and feelings in each school space. First, school practitioners are asked to focus on the school according to five types of spaces: outdoor spaces, formal learning spaces, study spaces, eating spaces, and communal and circulation spaces. They then fill in an online survey using photos of each of them. Next, the survey is answered by the students, enquiring on their preferences and dynamics on each one. . Task II debates uses and spatial awareness through group interaction with students regarding the information gathered from the previous phase. This task involves walkthroughs and focus groups, where students visit the most representative school spaces previously identified and are asked to associate the spaces to the activities undertaken, by relating to their routines and their sense of belonging and appropriation. This task implies debating the consensus and divergences regarding school space, which could be justified by social practices, group habits, management impositions, but foremost by spatial features that need to be acknowledged for future spatial alterations. . Lastly, this tool encourages spatial negotiation, by presenting the networks of students’ uses in space to the school community. The feedback from the students uses and their feelings in space acts as the basis for discussing the school space and its potential improvements, either at a smaller or larger scale of spatial change.
This tool provides a critical understanding by each school community upon their active learning spaces, in order to inform on students’ effective uses and propose a closer intertwinement between learners and learning environments. Each task provides specific findings and the overall application of this tool holds a more general representativeness to the urban and pedagogical setting of the school: . Tasks I enables an initial understanding of the school’s layout and material conditions and informs on how students perceive and feel in each of these spaces, the most and least used, the spaces for informal interaction and ones that generate higher dynamics. . Task II offers a critical interpretation of the data collected and delivers a more in-depth understanding of the network of students’ uses and the reasons for their accounts of space. . Lastly, the tool brings awareness of the students’ actual fruition of the school spaces, the ones that effectively correspond to active learning environments and their spatial features, and the ones that are lacking spatial improvements that would benefit learning acquisition. This could be considered in future refurbishments and may even encourage the school to immediately act on the suggestions provided, generating an inclusive participation from all. The tool has possible applications in academic contexts but, foremost, it delivers comprehensive social, political and architectural outputs. It can contribute to the decision-making and political negotiation processes and also to guide urban and architectural design. Ultimately, it enables a participatory design to provide more suitable educational environments to each specific school, and generally, to improve learning by reporting to each community.
Alcoforado, L.; Fernandes, J. L.; Gama Fernandes, R.; Barros, C.; Frias, M. & Cordeiro, A. M. (2018). Multiculturalism in Europe: trends, reflections and challenges, regarding the school population of a municipality in the Lisbon Metropolitan Area. “Debater a Europa”, 19. 69-93. 10.14195/1647-6336_19_6. Coelho, C. (2019a). Providing for an adaptable learning environment: The case of the music school. In A. Alegre, M. Bacharel, A. Fernandes (Coord.). “Educational Architecture - Education, Heritage, Challenges”. Conference Proceedings. (pp.119-133). Lisboa: Instituto Superior Técnico. ISBN 978-972-98994-5-4. Coelho, C. (2019b). In search of modernist adaptability. The adaptive reuse potential of José Falcão School for contemporary learning. In M. Melenhorst, P. Providência, G. Canto Moniz (Eds.) “2nd RMB Conference proceedings”. (pp. 135-146). Coimbra: RMB Erasmus Project. e|d|arq - Department of Architecture, University of Coimbra. Coelho, C. (2017). “Life within architecture from design process to space use. Adaptability in school buildings today – A methodological approach”. PhD Thesis in Architecture. Departamento de Arquitetura da Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia. Universidade de Coimbra. Cordeiro, A. M. & Alcoforado, L. (2018). Education and development. “Méditerranée”, 130. Ferreira, C. & Moniz, G. C. (2018). New Cartographies of Educational Spatialities: The inclusion of students’ views’. In M. Melenhorst, G. Canto Moniz, P. Providência (Eds.), “RMB Conference Week”. (pp. 83-89). Coimbra. Latour, Bruno (2005). “Reassembling Social – An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory”. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Moniz, G. C. & Ferreira, C. (2016). The school as a city and a city as a school: Future architectural scenarios for the school. In Stadler-Altmann, Ulrike (Ed.), “Lernumgebungen. Erziehungswissenschaftliche Perspektiven auf Schulgebäude und Klassenzimmer”. (pp. 125-153). Opladen, Berlin, Toronto: Verlag Barbara Budrich. Venturini, T., Jacomy, M. & Jensen, P. (2019). What do we see when we look at networks. “ArXiv”, abs/1905.02202.
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