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

Abstract

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.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Project-based learning is engaging students in investigation. Within this framework, students pursue solutions to non-trivial problems by asking and refining questions, debating ideas, making predictions, designing plans and/or experiments, collecting and analysing data, drawing conclusions, communicating their ideas and findings to others, asking new questions and creating artefacts (Blumenfeld et al. 1991).

  2. 2.

    Differentiated instruction is an organised, yet flexible, way of proactively adjusting teaching and learning methods to accommodate each child's learning needs and preferences to achieve maximum growth (Tomlinson 2014).

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Acknowledgements

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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Correspondence to Katharina E. Kariippanon.

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Kariippanon, K.E., Cliff, D.P., Lancaster, S.L. et al. Perceived interplay between flexible learning spaces and teaching, learning and student wellbeing. Learning Environ Res 21, 301–320 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10984-017-9254-9

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Keywords

  • Autonomy
  • Collaboration
  • Engagement
  • Learning environment
  • Physical environment
  • Student-centred
  • Wellbeing