QLD: Rethinking Learning Spaces based on Innovative Pedagogy

Published: Tuesday 25 September 2018

The Queensland Chapter’s fifth event this year was recently hosted by Lourdes Hill College and the Centre for Innovation, Teaching Excellence and Leadership (CiTEL) and expanded on this year’s exploration of design thinking’s importance in innovative learning.

Coordinated and facilitated by Rachel Towill (QLD Chapter Co-Chair), Gabrielle Kempton (Head of Learning Creativity at St Paul’s School) and Tim Osborne (Head of Design Thinking at St Paul’s School) led a workshop aimed at harnessing the collective experience of all those in attendance, via the design thinking process, to create learning environments that make innovative pedagogy and learning workable, engaging, and visible. In short, we were taken through an abridged design thinking process to formulate proposals for learning environments that facilitated an innovative pedagogy.

What better way to learn about the design thinking process, than to experience it first hand?

Gabrielle and Tim gave a succinct overview of the afternoon’s proceedings before the workshop started. We were introduced to the Design Thinking process which would inform the structure of the workshop:
1.    Engage – Empathise and define
2.    Ideate – brainstorming of creative solutions
3.    Prototype – building representations of ideas

Tim then illustrated to the power of the post-it, and the correct method to peel one off from the pack. (For the philistines out there it’s side to side, not up).

Upon entering the conference room, guests were greeted with tables of card, lego, and craft supplies – our canvas and materials for the group presentation at the end of the workshop. The room was divided into 10 teams of five to six people, and then posed the question:

How might we design educational environments that make innovative pedagogy and learning workable, engaging and visible?

In addition to this central question, teams were assigned one of three sets of three design criteria e.g.:
•    Enabling students to (authentically) showcase their work and to share insights, ideas and interpretations beyond formal approaches
•    Approaches that promote imagination and playfulness, and which engage students (of all ages) with new perspectives
•    Challenges that can be approached from varying angles and that allow students to think in different ways i.e. convergent-divergent-lateral-adaptive thinking

We were given a short period of time to generate as many broad level responses to this question within our specified criteria on the supplied post-it notes. As a team, we collated our response and continued to the next session, in which we were to generate as many as possible spatial responses. This included spatial characteristics, specific spaces, furniture etc.  These responses were pinned to the wall and the groups were able to confer and compare how others had approached the question.

At this point the teams were asked to create an addition three criteria through which we would answer the afternoon’s question. From this set of now six criteria we brainstormed solutions, whittling down our stack of post-it notes. Once the brainstorming was finished we then grouped the solutions in to similar ideas to be able to shape our final proposal.

Once we had finalised our proposal, it was time to roll up our sleeves and start prototyping. A scramble for the materials table emerged as teams (politely) vied for the more valuable materials. Guests eyed the table prudently and materials were carefully judged as to how they would contribute to the team’s proposal. The sounds of ripping paper, scissors cutting, and excited talking filled the air. Hot glue guns oozed molten plastic and the strands were brushed away as teams finished their prototype of their proposals.

One by one each team presented their proposals, highlights from which include:
-    The recurring theme of access to nature and the outdoor learning
-    A large learning tree
-    Play learning
-    Flexible and adaptive spaces
-    A volcano

To finish off the day, those who were interested were given a tour of the school; and then reconvened with drinks and canapés on the terrace, taking in the beautiful views of the City and Brisbane River.

Article: Andrew Wallace
Photographer: Gabrielle Kempton