Home' Teacher : April 2010 Contents 48 TEACHER APRIL 2010
Visibility and ease of access to facili-
ties and resources also provides a constant
reminder of possibilities or 'affordances.'
The integration of information and com mu-
nication technology into all areas stresses
the significant relationship between learn-
ing in the real and virtual realms.
The physical environment is made from tan-
gible things and is concerned with function
and practicalities, but it also affects how
people feel and intangible qualities such
as respect were also to be expressed by the
environment. The design creates an infor-
mal but sophisticated ambience requested
by the adolescent students.
Learning environments are extremely
busy places full of people, movement and
'stuff,' and there are conflicting needs,
between complexity and clarity, between
providing a rich and stimulating environ-
ment as well as a calm and coherent one. The
environment is both visually and function-
ally harmonious , with a restricted palette of
finishes and mainly neutral colours, so that
the focus is on the students, their activities
and their work. Students say they feel relaxed
in the new environments and ready to learn.
Generally furniture items are of high
quality and readily available, but some spe-
cial items have been designed for storage/
space division and relaxed seating. Student
lockers were specially manufactu red and are
incorporated into the learning commons.
Stability or flexibility?
The environments I've described are rela-
tively permanent rather than totally flex-
ible. Stability means that everyone knows
where things are, which is important in a
very dynamic and unpredictable program.
Teachers say that permanent settings
save time and energy which might otherwise
be spent in negotiating and scene shifting.
Purposefully-designed environments enable
the development of richness and complexity
The learning environment may be con-
ceptualised as being made up of three layers:
the building shell; internal settings; and loose
items, resources, equipment and so on. All
layers need to be considered together for
functional and visual integrity, although they
may be the responsibility of different agents.
The building shell and settings are rela-
tively permanent, while the last layer is less
so, built up over time by the inhabitants.
It's this last layer which expresses the iden-
tity of a particular community, reflecting
their backgrounds, interests and developing
ideas. This is a most significant layer in that
it builds familiarity, emotional attachment
and a sense of belonging.
Mary Feathe rston is a design consultant
specialising in the design of schools.
This is an edited extract, origin ally titled
'Learning e nvironment design -- Dandenong
High School,' from Take 8: Learning Spaces --
The transformation of educational spaces for
the 21st Century, edited by Clare Newton and
Dr Kenn Fisher. Clare Ne wton is the chief
investigator of the ARC Smart Gree n Schools
Linkage Grant and a se nior lecturer at the
University of Melbourne. Kenn Fisher is the
director of Rubida Research and an associate
professor at the University of Melbourne.
Photo courtesy of Hayball Leon ard Stent
Architects and Mary Featherston .
Burke, C. (2009). 'Inside out': a col-
laborative approach to designing schools
in England, 1945--1972. Paedagogic a
Historica. 45(3): 421-433.
Malaguzzi, L. in Edwards, C. , Gandini,
L . & Forman, G. (Eds). (1998). The
Hundred Langu ages of Children: The
Reggio Emilia approach -- advanced
reflections, Greenwich, Connecticut:
Monahan , T. (2002). Flexible Space &
Built Pedagogy: Emerging IT embodi-
ments. Inventio. 4 (1): 1-19.
are extremely busy places
full of people, movement
and 'stuff,' and there
are conflicting needs,
between complexity and
clarity, between providing
a rich and stimulating
environment as well as a
calm and coherent one.
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