Project Insights: p[r]ep Learning Environments WA Research Scoping Project

Published: Tuesday 29 March 2022

This research project has brought together members of Learning Environments Australia, WA Chapter (LEWA) and researchers from the School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Notre Dame, Fremantle.

With the overarching objective to develop a community of Postgraduate Researchers, Educators and Practitioners - p[r]ep, this project provides support to LEWA members in contributing to, engaging with, and building on research into learning environments in a West Australian context. The outcome of this project is a framework that articulates the pathways to the Master of Philosophy program at the University of Notre Dame, Fremantle. 

There is a need within LEWA members to inform the development of their own practices and strengthen the meaningful relationship between learning and environments through academic research. The diversity of the LEWA membership – designers and architects; educators and learners; managers and stakeholders – provides a wealth of experience and knowledge on which to grow and shape their design and educational practices. This diversity can mean the research abilities and capacity of LEWA members are difficult to see clearly, and the connections between practice and research obscure. The p[r]ep project captures the abilities, capacities and aspirations of LEWA members, providing them with the opportunity to contribute to and engage in formal academic research projects in ways that suit their interests and situation. 

Member engagement workshops developed understanding of the depth and breadth of the current knowledge ofLEWA, further informed by literature reviews of relevant publications and research, and member surveys. Out of this research, the overarching theme of communities and schools emerged. The proposed research projects within this framework build on the 4 areas of focus identified – density, sustainability, adaptability, and leadership – and guide future p[r]ep research students with a clear outline, suggested research methods and possible outcomes, to illustrate the research potential.

The success of proposed research projects relies on the capacity within the LEWA membership to undertake research and the different capacities of LEWA members is recognised in this framework.  For those able to invest in their career and develop their research skills, enrolment in a Master of Philosophy is proposed. Employers seeking to explore an area of strategic interest are encouraged to support a member of staff enrolling as a research student. Members can also be involved as case studies, providing access to projects and communities. 

This research framework encourages individuals to build their research capacity and capability as they focus on a topic specific to their needs. However, the dissemination of outcomes of such diverse research projects can be difficult. To address this challenge, the p[r]ep research framework has developed means of sharing research findings. In October 2021, the inaugural p[r]ep research symposium showcased current research and their impact in research, design and education practices. The symposium provided a platform for current research students and experienced professionals to share past and current research and demonstrate impact in learning environment practice or policy. This symposium highlighted the importance of research to the practice of education and design of learning environments, and will become a regular event to showcase the work of those within the emerging p[r]ep community. The recently launched p[r]ep website, continues this knowledge sharing engaging with a broader audience and providing a platform to share future research, as LEWA members enrol in and complete their Master of Philosophy over coming years.

This project is funded by Learning Environments Australasia, WA Chapter,  who have provided $15,000 over two years (2020-2021). This funding is supported by in-kind contributions from LEWA and the University of Notre Dame Australia, sharing the time, cost and expertise needed to successfully deliver this framework equally. The project team at the University of Notre Dame School of Arts and Sciences, Fremantle, comprised Dr Lara Mackintosh, Chief Investigator, and Rachel Tindall, research assistant. The research committee of LEWA comprises Leon Slattery, Eamon Broderick, and Michael Smith.

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