Learning Environments Research

, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 301–320 | Cite as

Perceived interplay between flexible learning spaces and teaching, learning and student wellbeing

  • Katharina E. KariippanonEmail author
  • Dylan P. Cliff
  • Sarah L. Lancaster
  • Anthony D. Okely
  • Anne-Maree Parrish
Original Paper


In recognition of the evolving learning needs of twenty-first century school students, changes to teaching practices and the incorporation of technology are increasingly accompanied by modifications to the built classroom environment. Typically rows of desk and chairs are replaced with a range of furniture that can be configured in various ways to facilitate teaching and learning. This article explores the perceived relationship between these flexible learning spaces and teaching, learning and wellbeing outcomes. The perceptions and experiences of 12 school principals, 35 teachers and 85 students from four primary and four secondary schools in Australia were examined. Flexible learning spaces were reported to facilitate student-centred pedagogy and selfregulation, collaboration, and student autonomy and engagement. Modified spaces were reportedly more enjoyable, comfortable and inclusive and allowed greater interaction. The findings are discussed in light of Beaton’s five key design principles of student-centred learning environments to explore the connection between the physical classroom environment and teaching and learning. Self-Determination Theory is used to interpret how elements of the physical space facilitate the creation of a social environment that encourages greater motivation to learn and increases student wellbeing. The research contributes to an understanding of how flexible learning spaces are used and with what effect, thereby addressing a present gap in the literature.


Autonomy Collaboration Engagement Learning environment Physical environment Student-centred Wellbeing 



We acknowledge the Futures Learning Unit of the NSW Department of Education and Training, especially Kathleen Donohoe and Robert Fraser, for their support and funding. We also thank the participating schools, principals, teachers and students who shared their views with us. This research was conducted with the support of an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katharina E. Kariippanon
    • 1
    Email author
  • Dylan P. Cliff
    • 2
  • Sarah L. Lancaster
    • 1
  • Anthony D. Okely
    • 2
  • Anne-Maree Parrish
    • 1
  1. 1.Early Start, School of Health and Society, Faculty of Social SciencesUniversity of WollongongWollongongAustralia
  2. 2.Early Start, School of Education, Faculty of Social SciencesUniversity of WollongongWollongongAustralia

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