Staff from, among others, the Estates Division, Learning Technology and Innovation, and the Teaching and Learning Centre have been carrying out work across campus to interrogate the design and capabilities of LSE’s new and refurbished learning and teaching spaces. In this post, LTI Senior Learning Technologist Kris Roger explains the rationale, approach and follow-up evaluation activity involved in shaping these spaces as effective educational environments.

Rationale

Space is a critical part of shaping learning and teaching.  Space shapes the way the rest of our senses engage in the visual and verbal interactions taking place in our classroom, computer rooms and learning spaces. From the tactility and position of the furniture, to the ambience of the lighting through to the opportunities to engage, collaborate, create and inspire; teaching and learning spaces are more than the sum of the chairs and tables in a room.

The LSE have begun a comprehensive review and rethinking of what space means to teaching and learning at the School.  Learning Technology and Innovation, AV Services, the Teaching and Learning Centre and the Estates Division are working collaboratively to lead the discussion about how students and teachers (along with our community) use the spaces we have now (informing the spaces that are yet to come). We are designing a new vision for learning and teaching space at the School, that is responsive and flexible to the needs of students and teachers. We are drawing inspiration from the city that surrounds us, the transformative influence of Social Science and the wider world of higher education.

Developments so far

This programme of activity started around 2 years ago with our collaboration with the Estates Division on the redevelopment of Parish Hall. This was transformed from a disjointed, partly abandoned set of spaces, into 3 large teaching rooms seating 60 people in a cabaret style arrangement designed to encourage groups to both interact with the academic and with each other. TLC and LTI worked closely with the teachers who were expected to be timetabled in the space to develop a design that allows for multi-modal teaching in the same session.

parish-hall-lti-learning-spaces

Similarly, working with teachers in the statistics department, 3 new computer teaching rooms were developed in Tower 2, with the intention of facilitating PC-based collaborative group work. We also implemented fairly subtle adjustments to more traditional lecture room layouts to provide a greater sense of close proximity between teachers and students, such as the new lecture room on the 4th floor of the old building.

In addition to thinking about the design of formal learning spaces, such as classrooms and lecture rooms, we have been investigating the provision of informal learning spaces, such as students study spaces around the School. Existing informal learning spaces were largely limited to library study spaces, cafés and catering venues and a few seating areas in buildings such as 32 Lincoln’s Inn Fields and the New Academic Building.

We started by redesigning the open access PC room in the basement of 20 Kingsway to become an attractive and comfortable multipurpose space including room for informal study, use of fixed PCs and use as a language teaching classroom. We started to experiment with providing a variety of different types of workspace, including higher-level seating and tables designed for collaborative group work.

lti-learning-spaces

More recently we have developed a further 6 experimental spaces in the Rotunda stairwell of Clement House, providing a variety of formats that enable students to actively work together, be creative and be inspired by their work environment. Each floor is named for a global city providing these previously incidental spaces with some identity. We have again experimented with different heights of seating and different technologies, such as a collaborative table with a large screen for sharing work, designed for groups to work on presentations. We have also provided whiteboards in a number of the spaces, including a digital whiteboard for idea generation. Through all of this we have also tried to make the spaces visually appealing as well as enabling students to ‘feel at home’ in the space.

cape-town-lti-learning-spaces

Evaluation

All of this activity has been followed up with substantial evaluation work investigating whether the new spaces fulfilled the design intentions and the impact these alternative designs have on teaching and learning activity in the space concerned. The process involved observing and collecting feedback from both teaching staff and students using the new classrooms, and working closely with students using the Clement House spaces to get a better understanding of their use of and needs in relation to such spaces.

Rethinking processes

Alongside these ‘live’ projects we have also been reflecting on and documenting our activities and considering the processes and stages that the various stakeholders are involved in. To help with this we employed an external consultant to devise a learning spaces development tool kit for LSE. The idea is to ensure that all of the stakeholders work collaboratively in the design and implementation of new teaching and learning facilities. The toolkit outlines a step-by-step process whereby pedagogy, space and technology are considered together so the result is an excellent physical teaching and learning environment for LSE.

In Summary

We’ll be following up this post in the near future with a more substantial look at our evaluation of last year’s projects along with a more detailed update on the Clement House Rotunda learning spaces.

All of this development work and experimentation will feed into the plans for the new centre buildings and 44 Lincoln’s Inn fields. In the shorter term, we are also looking at potential spaces for refurbishment and we are always looking for feedback and ideas on how we can transform LSE’s teaching and learning spaces.

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