CEFPI goes to Notre Dame

Published: Tuesday 3 June 2014

On two days in March this year, CEFPI members from the WA Chapter had the opportunity to engage with undergraduate teachers at the University of Notre Dame.

In an innovative annual programme led by Stuart Neal (Slavin Architects) and Anne Coffey from UND, education students are first given an introductory lecture linking pedagogy and space and then the following day, participate in the design of a learning environment.

The lecture; presented by Stuart Neal, Lara Macintosh (Curtin University and Viridis Architecture) and Eamon Broderick (Broderick Architects) was participative and encouraged students to respond to slides of school interiors and respond to questions such as ....."what could I teach in this space?".

This led to a vigorous discussion with students recalling their own education and being challenged to consider alternatives to individual classrooms. Particular attention was paid to the jargon used by both the architects and education students and some discussion was focussed on the interpretation of comments by both groups.

Interestingly many students were conservative in their responses and favoured conventional classrooms over other environments. Due to their teaching specialisations (drama, science etc) some students had strong views on what may or may not be suitable environments.

A particular exchange stays in mind where a student science teacher described an open plan and flexible space (Albany SHS in Auckland) as not being suitable for science believing it would suit music or drama better; only to have the student music teacher explain that the low ceilings and the acoustic environment would not suit drama or music and that the space looked better suited to discussions and informal group work.

These exchanges were valuable and it was clear that the students were gaining a heightened awareness of the link between design and learning: a new conversation for most.

The workshop the following day saw groups of 5 or 6 develop preliminary ideas for the design of learning areas for new buildings, renovations or specialist area such as science. Some groups jumped in and began to make sketches of proposals whilst other groups developed written responses and outlined objectives for the design.

The students presented the outcomes of the workshop back to the group and discussed the innovative ideas in their proposals for exciting learning environments. Feedback after the sessions indicated that the NDU students found the sessions very engaging; particularly the informal discussions surrounding the material presented. Students advised that they would like to see some local WA projects presented as well as some examples of poor learning environments!

A follow up session with post graduate teachers has been suggested to be run in October as well as making this session an ongoing part of the education course at NDU.

CEFPI WA chapter members involved: Stuart Neal, Lara Macintosh, Eamon Broderick, Johnsen Lim, Laura Adams and Peter Lippman.