Thursday, 24 March 2011

Re-visiting Evaluation of Learning Spaces

Today I had a very interesting meeting about the evaluation of learning spaces with Jo Dane Associate Senior Consultant-Education of Woods Bagot, who is doing a post graduate degree about this subject supervised by Peter Jamieson.
We discussed what evaluation is and how to achieve it.  We agreed that if we are to be able to evaluate the success of a learning space  it has to be about more than exam results, it should  also be about behavioural change and experience.
Some of the methods used could be focus groups, surveys, observations, and mapping. The critical thing is that any data is meaningful and ideally a longitudinal study should be conducted, of course this takes resources.
There are also considerations such as how the teacher uses the space i.e. is it being used as envisaged, was any instruction given on how to get the most from the space, cultural considerations, especially in a university with a large international student population like Melbourne.
In short the evaluation of learning spaces is not a straight forward process and needs a lot of consideration.
I know Jo and Peter will have more to say on this subject.


  1. Hi Nigel,

    I know you are nearing the end of your visit to Australia, your blog has been very valuable to the community. I was at the LTSMG meeting in Edinburgh the last few days (very successful) and the subject you are discussing here was very relevant. I think "evaluation" should encompase all you say above, it's not just about exam results, it's about the whole experience the students and academics have had. I know James Rutherford is soon to fly out and meet Peter, I hope he can continue where you are leaving off, the challenges he had to deal with in a recent project were substantial and were well presented in Edinburgh. You missed a good event mate ;-)

    Look forward to seeing you in May here at Newcastle and your presentation on your down under experience.

    Regards to you and Peter.


  2. I wrote a chapter in our Next generation learning Spaces conference proceedings on evaluation. It is a crucial and almost universally ignored area. You can read more at:

  3. Derek
    It is encouraging to see that you included the chapter but depressing that it is almost universally ignored.
    Why is this?

  4. Hi Nigel,

    I agree - there is a great deal of rhetoric about Learning Space design, but hardly any empirical evidence or evaluation to show what works and what doesn't in terms of its impact on learning!

    At Loughborough College, we are currently undertaking an evaluation/impact assessment of the current (and planned) refurbishments of our 1960's buildings as part of an LSIS funded project "21st century Learning Spaces in 20th Century Buildings". This is a teaching and learning lead initiative, but involves a multi-diciplinary approach including estates and ILT.

    We are collecting baseline data from learners and lecturers/tutors to inform the refurbishments and plan to utilise this data in evaluating short, medium and long term impact on learning and learner/lecturer satisfaction levels.

    Have any of you come across any evaluation of colour, lighting, furnishings - ie the visual aspects of design - on learning and creativity?

  5. Hilary thanks for your comment. I recently did some basic searching for evidence of the impact of learning in teaching spaces in order to convince the architects of a refurb at Aberystwyth that white in all the new teaching spaces is not acceptable.
    The 3 links below support my belief that colour is in important in learning spaces. In fact it is important in most things, if not all, in our lives. Think about how much time we take over choosing the colour of our clothes, home decoration, plants in the garden and even our cars.

    Some of the links reference more in depth research if you wish to pursue these.
    I would be interested in seeing your baseline data, will it be made available?
    The title is interesting ‘21st century Learning Spaces in 20th Century Buildings’. We have a new building currently being built and it appears that the mindset of the architects in regard to the learning spaces is still 20th century, especially in regard to layout and furniture. I know there is the student capacity constraint but this has to be overcome if our spaces are to provide a better environment and experience to staff and students.


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