by Jos Boys, Angelina Wilson, and Clare Melhuish
As the recipients of the 2012–2013 Perry Chapman Prize show in their report, Research on Learning Design: Present State, Future Directions, the study of learning spaces in tertiary education is an emerging field in which the key issues are to “establish a body of knowledge that will guide the design, remodel, and use of new and existing learning spaces” and “evaluate these learning spaces by developing research to determine whether and how they fulfill their purposes.”
Developing Research Methods for Analyzing Learning Spaces That Can Inform Institutional Missions of Learning and Engagement aims to produce complementary work by addressing the larger context of the university campus and students’ perceptions and experiences of their learning at the tertiary level more generally. Rather than starting from environmental psychology or behaviorist models, it explores the value of applying contemporary approaches from the social sciences to learning space design, an approach increasingly being developed. This, however, is not just a matter of applying a different research method; it also concerns the underlying problem of how we conceptualize relationships between material space and its occupation both generally and specifically in relationship to learning. In fact, over the last few years, theorists across many disciplines that deal with material space—such as geography, anthropology, and science and technology studies—have been critically examining precisely this issue of rethinking how to conceptualize the interrelationships between space, people, artifacts, and activities.
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Dr. Jos Boys is currently an academic developer at the University of New South Wales, Sydney. Previously, she was a teaching fellow and director of student enhancement in the Faculty of Arts, Design and Social Sciences (FADSS) at Northumbria University. Before that she worked as a senior research fellow, learning spaces, at the Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning through Design (CETLD), University of Brighton, United Kingdom, until 2010, having joined the CETLD in 2007 as an academic developer. Her background is in architecture, and she has taught at various institutions, including the Architectural Association and London Metropolitan University. She is particularly interested in exploring the intersections between social, spatial, and material practices and new ways of learning in tertiary education, both within and beyond the university.
She is author of Towards Creative Learning Spaces: Rethinking the Architecture of Post-Compulsory Education (Routledge 2011). She co-edited with Anne Boddington Re-Shaping Learning: A Critical Reader (Sense Publishers 2011). She has just completed Building Better Universities: Strategies, Spaces, Technologies to be published by Routledge at the end of 2014.
Dr. Clare Melhuish is an anthropologist of architecture and the built environment based in London. She has employed ethnographic research methods to explore processes of architectural design work and the impacts and social experience of built form in various different settings. She is currently research associate in the Urban Lab, University College London, undertaking mixed-method case study research in university-led urban regeneration in order to document and analyze the processes and effects of university expansion on university and local communities in the United Kingdom and abroad. From 2011 to 2013 she was research associate in geography at the Open University, investigating the use of digital visualizations in architectural practice on a large-scale urban redevelopment project through multi-sited ethnographic research in the offices of architects, visualizers, and the client. In 2009–10 she worked with Jos Boys on an ethnographic research project exploring perceptions of learning experiences among staff and students in new learning spaces at the Universities of Sussex and Brighton in the United Kingdom. She has published and presented widely on architecture and design matters.
Angelina Wilson is currently undertaking a Ph.D. at Northumbria University, United Kingdom. Her research examines how students from different disciplines work together in a mixed-disciplinary environment and the effect this has on both individual and group learning. Her background was initially in information management, both as a lecturer and a researcher working on a number of research projects relating to electronic libraries. She was involved in the national People’s Network project, training public library staff in the use of new technology in libraries. After a brief period in the NHS where she managed IT training for over 8,000 NHS staff in Sunderland, she returned to academia as a researcher in the Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning: Assessment for Learning at Northumbria University. She has published a number of papers on both information and library management and assessment for learning.