Module 7.2 Reflect and Share:
Pick any one of the elements listed above, that form the basis of “givens” in learning space design, and reflect on the reality in a design of any space of learning you’ve experienced, read about or viewed in some detail in the past five years.
Can you find examples of learning space design that counter these assumptions?
Are they mostly successful or unsuccessful as learning environments, based on the information and evidence you can find?

The perceived “common sense” of timetables (Zivkovic, 2012)

Considering the focus on learner centred, personalised and collaborative learning, anytime/anywhere, real world and practical, games based and simulated, formal and informal, diverse and inclusive (GELP, 2013, Introduction), I wonder how we can imagine continuing with the constraints of the traditional timetable and scheduling/teaching of single subjects within a given time frame. It is like fitting the proverbial ‘square peg into a round hole’. I applaud those schools such as Templetsowe College  and Woorana Park Primary School who show that schooling must become an activity not a place (GELP, 2013, Chapter 1).

In over twenty years of teaching, I have yet to understand the perceived “common sense” of timetables and starting and finishing times for schools. I have had experience with schools where starting and finishing times have been determined in part by the local bus company and their schedules with other schools in a rural area. I wonder why mainstream education is so ‘stuck’ and resistant to change (McIntosh, 2014, 6).

Zivkovic’s article (2012, May 20). When should schools start in the morning?  Scientific American reveals the role of sleep to our growth, learning and the importance of our body circadian rhythms, how it determines our sleep patterns, and what it means to our students especially at secondary and college level. Lack of sleep or sleep deprivation discourages exercise, can also promote obesity and diabetes, mood effects and lead to long term consequences such as psychological and behavioural problems as well as to problems of physical and mental performance. His comment how often we equate students sleeping with slacking off or laziness resonates on both a personal and professional level. My daughter in her teenage years would often be watching movies until 2am and sleeping in late, and I wish I had known more of the research in hindsight, as she was often the victim of parental admonishment. As Zivkovic comments For teenagers, 6am is practically midnight – their bodies have barely begun to sleep”. As a school librarian, I have also come across students napping in corners or at desks in the library. I usually have left them be, thinking they obviously need the ‘power nap’ to be able to sleep while at school. However, I also know of other teachers and librarians who rant about students sleeping, obviously equating sleeping with slacking off – which Zivkovic abhors, and I must agree with him. Acknowledging the importance of sleep, and students’ circadian rhythms and the traditional constraints of starting and finishing times of schools, perhaps we need to consider providing students with spaces and places within school where they can re-charge their energy levels. Doorley & Witthoft (2012, 132) offer the notion of including ‘hiding places’ which offer crucial respite form open, collaborative environments.  These spaces are no-tech, tiny, dark with incandescent floor lamp, not brightly lit, are laid back, hidden and requires a ritual to enter e.g. taking off your shoe. After all, we promote and provide these spaces for our preschool student, understanding they need ‘time out’ from the physical and mental activity of the school day.

The perceived importance of peace and quiet for serious work (Ravi, 2012; Popova, 2014)
The perceived importance of background noise for productivity (Villarica, 2012)

Brainpickings by Maria Popova is one of my favourite contemplative weekly reads which I subscribe to, so it was a pleasure to read this particular reflection on the perceived importance of peace and quiet for serious work.  Reflecting on the work of cognitive psychologist, Ronald T. Kellogg (1994), Popova considers how space, routines (including time of day) and rituals have been essential for creativity.  Indeed this writing reflects how an environment can cue desired behaviour which “may enable or even induce intense concentration or a favourable motivational or emotional state… Moreover….may trigger retrieval of ideas, facts, plans, and other relevant knowledge associated with the place, time, or frame of mind selected by the writer for work” (Kellogg, 1994).  Ravi’s research documented how moderate (vs. low) level of ambient noise can enhance creativity through development of abstract cognition compared to high noise levels which reduces the extent of information processing (Ravi, 2012, 795). We have begun to play ‘music for study and relaxation’ in the library to create that ambient noise level. However, we now need to seek feedback from the students – do they find it stimulating, relaxing or bothersome to their productivity.  In previous student surveys that I have undertaken, there has always been a ‘cry out’ against noise and the need for zones of ‘quiet’ in school libraries. While some students can tune out the ambient noise of the school library environment by tuning in to their music on headphones, others still need that ‘sense of silence’. A final reflection which adheres back to Popova’s article, is that there is no ‘one fit’, that it is all relative – based on our individuality, our learning styles, our rituals and routines, our circadian body rhythms – our psychological constitution as to what will provide conditions for creativity and learning. As teachers and teacher librarians we need to be aware of these and use space to promote conditions for learning.

Reference: 

Gobal Education leaders’ program innovation unit. (2013). Redesigning education:  shaping learning systems around the globe [ebook].

Ravi, M. (2012), Is noise always bad? Exploring the effects of ambient noise on creative cognition. Journal of Consumer Research 39(4)4 784 -799. Retrieved from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/665048

Popova, M. (2014, August 25), The psychology of writing and the cognitive science of the perfect daily routine, Brainpickings. Retrieved from: http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2014/08/25/the-psychology-of-writing-daily-routine/

Villarica, H. (2012, June 20), Study of the day: Why crowded coffee shops fire up your creativity, The Atlantic. Retrieved from: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/06/study-of-the-day-why-crowded-coffee-shops-fire-up-your-creativity/258742/

Zivkovic, B. (2012, May 20). When should schools start in the morning?, Scientific American. Retrieved from:http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/a-blog-around-the-clock/2012/05/20/when-should-schools-start-in-the-morning/

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