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So what DO we know about planning learning spaces?

Thursday, 18 November 2010

2010 PKAL Learning Space Collaboratory National Colloquium. Whew! That’s quite a mouthful. I was fortunate enough to attend, and it was a great weekend of very robust discussion (and some fun!).

Under the guidance of Jeannie Narum, Principal of the Collaboratory, nearly a hundred educators, higher ed administrators, architects, planners, landscape architects, librarians, scientists, and others came together to share their knowledge and questions about “What We Know About Planning Learning Spaces and What We Still Need to Know”.

A combination of presentations, interactive sessions, small group work, the Colloquium modeled the type of teaching and learning that is – or should be – occurring on campus. Presenters included Ed Gomes of Duke University talking about our very own LINK project. Some food for thought from the weekend:

- How does space communicate rights and duties to faculty and students?
- There’s a need to budget for constant prototyping of spaces
- How can space liberate rather than constrain the options?
- How do we link learning outcomes to design?
- The best way to learn is to teach others (even if that other is an avatar!)
- The need to start a post-occupancy assessment pre-design (for baseline data)
- Informal and virtual learning spaces, “where chance supports connected minds”
- Paternalistic libertarianism and the notion that we can use design to help people choose more effective ways of teaching and learning
- Faculty may need to be trained to teach differently in new spaces: we can’t expect that design alone will change years of practice
- How to avoid the fate of the auto industry, captive of its own capital investment (we’ve got all these buildings, it will cost too much to tear down and start again)
- Dynamic optimization: defining what success will look like from the start so we know how to measure it. I was a bit troubled by some interpretations of this – along the lines of “start with the end in mind” – which seem to close off options too early.

At the end of the Sunday session we broke into groups and were tasked with developing topics for webinars (or in the case of my group, the idea for a wiki) as next steps. Overall, it was an energizing (and exhausting) weekend – I look forward to the next one!

- Annie Newman

Annie Newman is an associate principal at Shepley Bulfinch, where she leads the firm’s planning practice.

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