NIE TR718 13 Nov 2018 Symposium Sessions (1.5 hours)
Multi-Disciplinary Learning and Innovation 14:30 - 16:00

Innovating learning spaces for future learning
14:30 - 16:00

Chairperson: Dr Chua Bee Leng

Discussant: Dr Benjamin Cleveland

University of Melbourne


In this global, multicultural world of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the shift towards disruptive technologies, artificial intelligence means that students today need ever higher levels of literacy are required to engage in twenty-first century consumption and work. There is also greater need for students to become independent learners who are able to negotiate and manage almost unlimited access to information in their everyday lives. The traditional view of school as a conduit for transmitting information is thus insufficient in this new educational culture. Rather, schools need to help students learn how to manage and amplify what they know in order to generate greater learning.

To facilitate such learning, educational spaces must provide opportunities for these different ways of learning. Factors such as the design of learning spaces and choice and organization of furniture can reflect and shape pervasive notions of pedagogy as well as promote particular ideas and theories about the relationship between the teacher and pupils, and between body and mind in learning. However, it cannot be assumed that the redesign of learning spaces in itself have direct impact on teacher and student behavior, as some failures in attempts to transform educational thought and action through the organization of learning environments have shown. The failures and successes suggest that the design of learning environments is a multi-disciplinary affair, requiring the involvement of the educator, architect and various stakeholders.

This symposium seeks to push the boundaries of thinking about educational spaces by opening dialogue on how the innovation of learning spaces for future learning can happen. Chua Bee Leng begins the session with her presentation on how learning environments can facilitate creativity in students’ learning through her case studies of two innovative schools. Her broad overview of various criteria for learning environments frame the discussion. Michael Tan and Loh Chin Ee provide two illustrations of how innovating for future learning can happen. While makerspaces cannot happen without things and furniture, Michael presents the case of cultural organization within a makerspace to provide a reminder to attend to the cultural organization of people made possible with new material tools. Finally, Loh Chin Ee draws on her research on reading and school libraries to argue for an evidence-based approach to the design of future learning spaces. For her, the process of understanding the educational space to be developed is as important as the completed space. Finally, Ben Cleveland, as discussant, will provide his insights on the topic.


Symposium Entry 1: Learning Environment to Facilitate Students’ Creativity

Authors: Dr Chua Bee Leng

Institution: National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

The 21st Century is characterised by the accessibility of information, rapid development in technologies and unpredictable changes in societies. Accordingly, the 21st Century education should equip students to be creative to face the uncertainty in the future. Along with this recognition of the importance of creative ability in students, this paper explores how the design of learning environments can facilitate creativity in students’ learning. Qualitative data was collected through interviews with teachers and students as well as observations in learning spaces in Singapore. The data were analysed using concept-driven coding. Based on the findings, a conceptual framework, which builds on the relationship between learners’ psychological constructs for creativity, conditions of learning climate and design of the physical learning environments, is proposed. Implications of findings for practice and further studies will be discussed.

Symposium Entry 2: Not just furniture rearrangement: The organisation of culture for learning in makerspaces

Authors: Dr. Michael Tan


Institution: National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Makerspaces have emerged recently as a key site for interdisciplinary Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics learning. While most often associated with fancy new rooms with large investments in things, an easily overlooked principle in education is the importance of the people in the room too. This principle plays out not only in the construction of the ‘rules of engagement’ of active lessons, but also the passive background rules for peer interaction when students are involved in self-directed activities. I report here on the case of Marina Bay School Makers’ Club (a pseudonym), a student run makerspace that generates a high degree of student learning. Teacher decisions to privilege a high degree of playfulness, a high degree of authenticity, and their informed understandings of the nature of scientific inquiry ensure that student activity go past ‘having fun’ to actually learning authentic scientific inquiry. This paper serves as a reminder that while things can be a precondition for particular forms of learning, it is the organisation of people that will ultimately determine the outcome of the interaction.

Symposium Entry 3: Designing Evidence-Based School Libraries of the Future 

Authors: Dr Loh Chin Ee       

Institution: National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

In the move towards greater self-directed learning, collaboration and conversations as part of the 21st century learning journey, there is a need to look beyond the space of the classroom to examine how other spaces within the place of school can support different ways of learning. This presentation focuses on the school library as an untapped space for equitable and effective 21st century learning and argues for an evidence-based approach to designing school libraries of the future. Drawing on a year-long ethnographically inspired study of reading and learning in six secondary schools in Singapore, this paper examines how close engagement with school libraries, staff and students in six schools and multiple modes of data collection allowed for innovative ways of understanding the work and future of school libraries. The presentation makes the argument that any transformation in educational space must involve dialogue with the ground and current literature, understanding of the users’ (in this case, both teachers and students) pedagogical and personal needs in the context of the structure of school and the creation of resource materials for effective change.



National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University
University of Melbourne
Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning
National Institute of Education / Nanyang Technological University
Vice-President, ERAS


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