28 SES 08, Spaces, Socio-Technical Assemblages and Learning
Parallel Paper Session
As in many western countries, large investments in the physical and technological infrastructure of schools have occurred in Australia in recent years. As a member of OECD projects relating to design and evaluation of learning environments, we are keen to understand how learning is supported through these developments (eg. Fisher, 2001, DEECD, 2011).
The Australian Government’s response to the Global Financial Crisis included an economic stimulus package of construction and refurbishment of schools, with the Keynesian economic aim of providing employment in rapid construction and refurbishment, and the social aim of increasing the involvement of communities in activities that will support achievement in learning, and bring communities together. This program was called Building the Education Revolution (BER).
In the state of Victoria, part of the funding was used to provide $137 million (€111m) to 70 government schools in disadvantaged areas for the construction or refurbishment of new science laboratories and language learning centres. The Science and Language Centres for 21st Century Secondary Schools (SLC) program, was managed centrally by the state Department for Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) with a template approach to design and a set of ICT packages for each centre.
The new Victorian science and language buildings are based on a small range of designs emphasising openness and fluidity, and the connectivity of technology. These spaces are not neutral but an ‘instrument of the political’ (Pouler, 1994), in several ways. Hattie's (2009) meta analysis of the effect of various factors on student achievement looked at design in terms of 'open' compared with 'traditional' classrooms, and noted a minimal effect size (.01, where 0.4 is thought to be significant). However the Department believed that its preferred teaching and learning approaches could be achieved through new designs. Further, the relationship between the designers, project managers and the school community was mediated centrally. This raised interesting questions related to community participation in design. Sherringham and Stewart (2011), who explored a participatory design process for building projects in higher education settings, describe the difficulty experienced by almost all stakeholders in imagining possibilities other than those they are familiar with. This is a real tension for those participants wanting to drive change.
The research question guiding this paper relates to the extent to which school leaders seek to use the physical spaces as technologies for local change in teaching and learning practice, and improved learning outcomes. It is too early to judge fully the role of the spaces themselves. We consider how the policy embodied in the design of the spaces reflects a broader system view of preferred teaching and learning practice in the 21st century, and how this is made evident in school communities. Actor-network theory (Latour, 2005) helps us to understand what we have found, including the affective domain in connection with the new learning spaces. Goodyear (2011) argues that affect cannot be understood in isolation from activity, and activity is both socially and physically situated. While socio-cultural approaches to understanding teaching and learning have prevailed in recent years, we take a socio-material view to considering our data.
DEECD. (2011). Research into the connection between built learning spaces and student outcomes. Melbourne, Australia: Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. Victoria. Fisher, K. (2001). Building Better Outcomes: The Impact of School Infrastructure on Student Outcomes and Behaviour (Vol. 1). Canberra: Commonwealth Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs. Goodyear, P. (2011). Affect, Technology and Convivial Learning Environments. In C. R. A & S. K. D'Mello (Eds.), New Perspectives on Affect and Learning Technologies (pp. 243-254). Dordrecht: Springer. Hattie, J. (2009). Visible Learning. Oxford, UK: Routledge. Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory (Oxford: Oxford University Press) Pearshouse, I., Bligh, B., Brown, E., Lewthwaite, S., Graber, R., & Hartnell-Young, E. (2009). A study of effective models and practices for technology supported physical learning spaces (JELS): Final report. Bristol, UK: Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC). OECD. (2011). Designing for Education. Compendium of Exemplary Educational Facilities 2011. Paris: OECD Publishing. Pouler, P. (1994). Disciplinary Society and the Myth of Aesthetic Justice. In B. Scheer & F. E. Preiser (Eds.), Design Review: Challenging Urban Aesthetic control (pp. 175-186). New York: Chapman and Hall. Sherringham, S., & Stewart, S. (2011). Fragile Constructions: Processes for Reshaping Learning Spaces. In A. Boddington & J. Boys (Eds.), Re-Shaping Learning: A Critical Reader (pp. 115-118). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.
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