Collaboration and space

  • What about in your own learning environment? Which elements of physical space prevent a barrier to effective collaboration?
  • Which elements of the physical environment around you force collaboration where it would be better for learners to work individually?
  • The key question emerging from these “common languages” is whether they are common at all, overly complex or indeed reflective of the complexity of learning and creating of our students. It also begs the question of all “common languages” of learning and space: do students’ unthinking actions, the way they unintentionally use spaces for purposes different from those for which they were designed, dictate how effective a given space is in the end.

Collaboration i.e. working together, sometimes with people from very disparate backgrounds and personalities is an essential life skill. As MacIntosh(2015) in our course notes admonishes –  It involves learning institutions thinking deeply about what constitutes collaboration, real collaboration and not just ‘group work’, and what digital and physical space requirements might be.

Collaboration is an aspect that brings together space, design, teaching and learning. They are all necessary to be able for our students to develop the skill of working collaboratively. The distinction between group work and collaboration is one we really must consider in the learning environment. As educators we need to provide the scaffolding for students to understand the core elements of what is ‘collaboration’ and what does it look like? We also need to provide them with the inquiry environment that will promote collaborative learning. This is also closely tied to space and design. If we are expecting students to work collaboratively, then our traditional classrooms will not promote this.

So I am left pondering how might we assist collaborative learning in the library? What would it look like? What type of spaces are needed? What type of features such as acoustics, furnishings, space is needed to promote collaboration? What type of audit do we follow to consider how the library either hinders or promote collaboration. I think too that student’s re-purposing the space for their specific needs and uses (see earlier post on flexibility and design) also may provide for collaboration. What worries me, is that it is such an adhoc way. What strikes me is that rather than look at a variety of nooks and corners, we still are traditionally bound by three spaces with tables.