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Learning Environments

Principal Investigator: Dr Sam Jacoby

Year: 2017

Type: Research Knowledge Exchange Development

Theme: Learning Environments

The impact of spatial design has been most extensively researched in the context of learning environments. There is general agreement on a correlation between learning spaces and social practices of teaching and learning. Schools and their design are proven to be important for social mobility, social justice, and the building of social capital. Yet, the relationships between the design of learning spaces, pedagogy, learning styles, and learning experience or attainment is still largely argued in aspirational terms. While research shows that well-designed physical environments are linked to high-quality learning and increased attainment, there is limited evidence to support this claim once a basic standard of design is achieved, which is predominantly measured in terms of environmental comfort.

Despite recent advances in more holistic approaches to explain the importance of design to learning, a significant knowledge gap remains in understanding how spatial design, organisation, and quality either complement or inhibit pedagogical practice and learning experience, and how the impact of design can be better understood through mixed assessment methods and the inclusion of intangible factors.

Supported by the RCA Research Knowledge Exchange Development Fund, the project developed a classification of learning spaces and learning environments from the perspective of spatial designers. Based on a literature review and analysis of built case studies, it further reviewed spatial design criteria and assessment methods in UK learning environments. As part of the project’s knowledge exchange, the proposed classification and assessment methods were discussed and clarified in a series of conversations and workshops with experts from the Faculty of Education, Cambridge University, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studio, and the Institute of Education, UCL.