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THE ROLE OF LEARNING SPACE IN MEDIATING COLLABORATION

C. Kaur, L. Rose-Munro, S. Majeed, L. Macquarie

Monash University (AUSTRALIA)
It is critical in a student’s learning journey that they develop the ability to collaborate, connect to others, problem solve and convey complex information in preparation for entering next generation job markets. A carefully designed learning space provides students a platform that helps foster theses attributes. At Monash University, the Better Teaching Better Learning Agenda and Focus Monash strategic plan 2015-2020 acknowledge that evidence-based innovative learning environments inspire exemplar learning and teaching which enable student success. As next generation learning environments evolve, emerging methodology in learning environment evaluation has led to the identification of various typologies of learning spaces that have common features attributed to enabling student success. ‘Collaborative’ spaces provide a platform for student-centered, socially-constructed learning where design affordances, high and low-tech teaching tools and pedagogical pursuits combine to invite students to become active participants in their learning. However, these spaces require a greater degree of spatial variation as they support a diverse range of activities and learning styles. Led by the expert facilitator, students frequently participate in peer-to-peer learning that moves from surface to deeper level learning in a supportive environment designed to encourage creative and innovative thinking. Fundamentally just as teaching is a communal act, learning is socially constructed with and through others. However, little is known about the inter-relationship of the design of the space, technology and pedagogy and how these elements come together to enable student agency- the power for students to act and engage in learning processes and pathways. More specifically little is known about how the physical design and attributes of a collaborative learning space influence student and teacher participation in collaborative activities. This paper investigates the role a learning space plays in mediating collaborative teaching and learning behaviors. In this case study, we address a key research question - how does space play a role in encouraging collaborative learning and teaching? We conduct a Mixed Methods Case Study using an emergent learning environment evaluation model that accounts for the interrelationships of pedagogy, spatial design and technology. Our findings show that while space plays a role in encouraging collaboration, the magnitude of the effect it has on the degree of collaboration is pre-determined by the design attributes of the collaborative activities of the unit. Therefore learning spaces go hand-in-glove with course design.