Spaces in Learning a challenge for our University (and others)

LTA conference activities
Professor Colin Beard of Sheffield Hallam University gave an interesting talk on Space, transformation and troublesome knowledge in physical and virtual learning environments at the University’s LTA conference in Buxton today.

Colin, with his background in zoology and interest in Darwinian ideas, appealed to the audience to reflect on the learning process: to recognise that our language of learning, e.g. grasping concepts, higher levels of skills etc., is full of physical metaphors that show that the cognitive elements of learning come from wider experiential/ sensory images and actions. And that if we are to make the best of physical learning spaces, learning needs to be repositioned in that feeling, seeing, touching world.

He stressed that creativity is spatially dependent. People don’t think creatively in their offices but often in places more conducive to creative thought. And the same holds for our students. The physical environment of most classrooms militates against the physical actions that are part of building their knowledge.

In many ways, Colin was asserting ideas of a  physical constructivism that is often overlooked. I know in my earlier experience as a Maths teacher the physical nature of quantities was often left too soon. Symbolic arithmetic and algebraic manipulations were often made impossible because the physicality of the world out of which mathematic laws are abstracted , was insufficiently felt.

So I wouldn’t disagree with much he said. But what are the issues for those of us at the University of Derby. Continue reading