Are we asking the right questions?

The Learning Space Collaboratory brings academics, architects and administrators together to iteratively explore the driving questions that shape the processes involved in planning, designing and managing productive learning spaces.

The second of their 2016 Roundtables, held at Boston University, raised some interesting questions:

In creating collaborative learning spaces to engage interdisciplinary learning and research, how can the spaces bring the best intersection of “competition” and “collaboration” among disciplines and/or departments? – Susan M. Fliss, Harvard University

How might we better integrate: i) pedagogically-informed design of instructional spaces with: ii) faculty develop to take maximal advantage of state-of-the-art teaching spaces with: iii) assessment of the effectiveness of new spaces and teaching modalities? – James V. Staros, University of Massachusetts Amherst

I am struck by the fact that a satisfactory resolution of the first of these two questions is necessary in order to successfully navigate the challenges presented by the second. That is, the teams that do this type of work need – themselves – to learn to reconcile competing disciplinary ways of knowing and ways of doing in order to successfully design for the learning of others. For it is only through focusing on and understanding valued learning practices that pedagogically informed choices can be made, acted upon and taken up by those who learn. Moreover, clarity of purpose in multidisciplinary design ought to make the assessment of effectiveness easier for all involved – on an ongoing basis – and not the preserve of specialist evaluators.

I’m making an argument for a more active form of collective participation in the complex business of designing for learning. But remain mindful of the need for individual champions to steer a course towards valued goals and see that those who inherit the end design are equipped to use it well.

You can find short updates from the Roundtables at Georgia Institute of Technology and Boston University on the LSC website. Each includes a list of driving questions from architects and a narrative portfolio from the field.

If you would be interested in participating in something like this locally, we’d love to hear from you.