Of Special Note


Understanding How Space Matters:
Asking the Right Questions

When we walk into a space, we ask and determine what we can do in that space.

  • What is acceptable?
  • What is allowable?
  • What can happen here and what cannot?
  • What should happen here?

We scan the environment, which in its design/structure/furniture helps us produce inferences that allow us to come to provisional answers to these questions.

Space is never neutral. It whispers messages about what can and will happen here and, being attuned to the affordances and constraints, we are obliged to follow antecedent regularized forms of participation and action found in such a space.

Why Space Matters to Creativity – Wendy Newstetter, Director of Learning Sciences Research, College of Engineering (retired) – Georgia Institute of Technology. In 2012, with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the LSC undertook a project focusing on Cognition and Context: How Space Affects Learning and Creativity in the Undergraduate Setting. Newstetter was a member of the Sloan project team.

The Principle of Choice

“How can the principle of choice be leveraged into planning and designing high-performance settings for learning?”

This is the question we ended with; we did not begin with it. We started with a lot of discussion about students, about the experiences of students as learners, and about the potential of empowering the principle of ‘choice’ for students.

The idea of the principle of choice is when the individual student has a role in making choices about their settings for learning. Having this choice makes the student feel big in comparison to the institution as more choices are available and settings become less prescriptive. This phenomenon relates to the idea of building community, of creating a naturalness of access, of spaces that are not intimidating but rather spaces that signal to students that they can make choices, of spaces in which students have the option to form communities from within and not be dictated to from without.”

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Fostering Inclusivity

How do we, can we, make ‘spaces for making’ inclusive?

How can inclusive relationships foster meaningful making?

What makes one feel welcomed into or excluded from a particular space serving a particular community of learners?

Can makerspaces feel inherently exclusive for students who are not in a particular disciplinary field or who do not look like everyone now using the spaces?

We began with these questions about inclusivity. We are aware that spaces for learning influence relationships and interactions and wondered how thinking about scaffolding relationships in ‘spaces for making’ would foster inclusivity. We thought about the various users of the space and how they might interact.

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Planning and Designing for Inclusivity

What would a comfortable learning space be for you?
What would a safe space for learning be for you?

“Our group was drawn together by the similarity of our individual introductory reflections on what keeps us up at night. Each of us said something about not being quite sure we have a clear understanding of who our learners are, about the students for whom we are planning learning spaces. Speaking as an architect, this is particularly true for me.”

“We moved quickly to talking about conversations that needed to happen early-on between academics and architects if we are to understand whether we will be able to trust each other enough when we start planning. We think some hard questions need to be on the table. We need to be comfortable in bringing forward our questions and concerns relating to students.”

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LSC Open Conversations: Questions to be Asking








LSC Library Of Evidence

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

Decades of research on creativity and innovation suggest three basic levels of analysis: the individual, the group, and the organization. Each of these levels tends to be studied by different scholars within different disciplinary traditions—for example, individual creativity is studied by psychologists, whereas organizational creativity is typically studied by management scholars in schools of business.

Because creative work in organizations always involves individual factors, group factors, and organizational factors, the Learning Spaces Collaboratory is interested in research at all three levels. There is substantial evidence that learning—often considered to be a solitary, individual act—benefits from group interaction. If our goal is to prepare graduates to contribute effectively to our modern innovation economy, they need to be prepared to participate in highly collaborative creative environments—because this is the reality of creative work today.

Creativity Research Findings at Three Levels of Analysis – Keith Sawyer, Morgan Distinguished Professor of Educational Innovations – The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education

University of Wyoming Michael Enzi STEM Education Facility – Research Facilities Design

LSC/JLS Library of Evidence>>

From the Field Archive