Of Special Note

LSC Open Conversations
Planning That Matters—Spaces That Matter


LSC Summer 2021 Open Conversations:


The LSC is a community of academics and architects focusing on the future of learning spaces.

Biophilia & Student Success - LSC Open Conversation #1

Notes from the Open Conversation: Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Question to Participants:
What is your example/definition of a biophilic space?

  • The steps at the Widner Library at Harvard. This is a place where groups get together often. It is a large space that allows for gatherings of all types. People study together in groups or sit alone and people-watch.
  • Libraries on Undergraduate Campuses that have spaces with large, leaded glass windows looking out on mature trees—great for reading and great for resting eyes by looking out into the trees.
  • Interior Green Walls, like the one in the Science and Engineering Hall at George Washington University. It is a long a connecting stairway that allows light into the bottom floor. There are two active learning classrooms at that level with lots of wood and other materials, together with this green wall allows users to still feel connected to nature.
  • The new campus for the Episcopal Academy’s new campus in Newtown has a greenhouse. I think this is a wonderful space for all classes, not just biology.
  • Any Zen Garden-like space. Our firm has designed a restaurant on a campus with different plots of space and vertical timber slatting to capture the idea of a forest.
  • The sloped roof of the library at Delft University is the welcome mat at the entry to the campus.
  • New Public Library in Calgary – with all the wood and curved surfaces with the lighting is very calming and yet interesting.
  • My previous office on the second floor of the building that looked out over treetops. This was very calming. Having a space to look up and relax into is great.

Planning and Designing for Inclusivity

Resource for LSC Open Conversation #2
Wednesday, July 14, 2021

This essay captures a conversation at the 2016 LSC Roundtable at the University of Washington exploring questions to ask when planning and designing for inclusivity.


Questions for Students:

  • What would a comfortable learning space be for you?
  • What would a safe learning space be for you?
  • How do you describe yourself as a whole person?

Questions for Architects

  • Do we have a clear understanding about who our learners are, about the students for whom we are planning these spaces?
  • How do we design in a way that eliminates all biases—no matter how an individual student defines her ‘whole person/persona?

Questions academics and architects should be asking each other:

  • Do we recognize that we should be doing as much inclusive design as possible?
  • Do we proceed on the assumption that the future flies at us every year?
  • Are we planning for those on our campus now or for those who will be coming to our campuses during the lifetime of the spaces we are now planning?
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Assessment Purpose and Framework

To achieve its practical aim, assessment has been conceived of as an iterative process—an assessment loop that involves setting goals and asking questions, gathering data and evidence, analyzing results, sharing and applying results, and using results by taking action.

Figure 1. Assessment Cycle

The full cycle of assessment must be executed to really do assessment well. Too often things get hung up at the phase of gathering evidence. Sometimes the cycle stalls here for want of better or more definitive data, and other times it is a failure to develop and implement an action plan based assessment data.

If assessment is to inform future practice and the activities of assessment– asking questions, and gathering and analyzing evidence—are similar to the goals of research, assessment is a particular kind of “action research.” It focuses on collecting data to demonstrate impact and to plan for improvement, with the practical goal to inform local action. The framework for assessment advocated for learning spaces flows from this standard statement of purpose.


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LSC Open Conversations: Questions to be Asking







LSC/JLS Library Of Evidence

Findings from Research & Practice – What Works in Planning for Assessing Learning Spaces

Assessment: A Strategy for Gathering Evidence of What Works in Shaping Spaces for Learning
The LSC Guide: Planning for Assessing 21st Century Spaces for 21st Century Learners
 Jillian Kinzie, NSSE/Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research

Assessment and Learning Spaces

The assessment of learning outcomes—defined as what students will know, be able to do, the skills and competencies that they can forward—is the current coin of the educational assessment realm. However, when it comes to the issue of the physical environment, we must ask:

What is important and possible to measure about the impact of space on the experience of learning?

Assessment results should ultimately answer this question:

How we will know the spaces we are planning will make a difference, or how do we know what difference current spaces are making in regard to the quality of the learning experiences of our students?

The assessment loop can be applied to all phases of designing learning spaces—from planning to post-occupancy, ongoing assessment and redesign of spatial affordances. In fact, planning for assessment should be intentionally integrated into each stage of planning, designing, and using learning spaces. Take care, however, that assessment results not dictate final decisions; professional judgments must be applied in interpreting evidence and taking appropriate action.

As with all assessment undertakings, assessing learning spaces is fundamentally about asking the right questions. To address the current pressure for accountability for student learning, it is critical that learning spaces go beyond traditional measures of use, efficiency and service, and detail the extent to which the space enhances the experiences of learning and teaching.



LSC/JLS Library of Evidence>>

From the Field Archive