A Teaching Philosophy – Socialised Learning Spaces

Socialization of Space for Learning (additional examples of new models globally will be sourced) i.e. Hyper Island, Chaos Pilots, Abertay Dundee, various EEC and Asian Documents etc)

When the creator of the game of chess (in some tellings an ancient Indian mathematician, in others a legendary dravida vellalar named Sessa or Sissa) showed his invention to the ruler of the country, the ruler was so pleased that he gave the inventor the right to name his prize for the invention. The man, who was very wise, asked the king this: that for the first square of the chess board, he would receive one grain of wheat (in some tellings, rice), two for the second one, four on the third one, and so forth, doubling the amount each time. The ruler, arithmetically unaware, quickly accepted the inventor’s offer, even getting offended by his perceived notion that the inventor was asking for such a low price, and ordered the treasurer to count and hand over the wheat to the inventor. However, when the treasurer took more than a week to calculate the amount of wheat, the ruler asked him for a reason for his tardiness. The treasurer then gave him the result of the calculation, and explained that it would take more than all the assets of the kingdom to give the inventor the reward. The story ends with the inventor becoming the new king. (In other variations of the story the king punishes the inventor.)

A Teaching Philosophy

‘Full cognitive development requires social interaction.’ Social Development Theory (Vygotsky)

The next generation of learners and those re-skilling will inhabit a future that is continually in flux. They will need conceptual dexterity, social artistry, creativity, collaboration & applied skills to lead tomorrow’s social enterprise economy.

The approach is one of action learning and problem solving in ‘real’ world application. The skills that arise are the higher ‘soft’ skills necessary for contemporary world moving from feudal, commodity driven economies, through mass manufacturing economies to a new creative & design led economy where mental production adds value, lifestyle choice & personalisation.

The social enterprise economy recognizes that the user interaction is key and that paradigm shifts in learning are essential to accommodate the experiential, affective & cognitive dimensions of consumer engagement.

Learners’ capacity for continuous innovation emerges from the socialization process, through social learning spaces, learning citizenship and mutualised governance of learning. Leadership and social entrepreneurship emerges from these ’social’ approaches to learning and shared creativity.

We live in dynamic times that demand our students have the toolkit to adapt and be responsive to rapidly evolving external scenarios. There is a need for much greater flexibility in the learning experience not just cognitive development but an acknowledgement of social and emotive aspects of a students experience in the learning landscape. That there are not barriers or discreet approaches but rhizomic and un-rehearsed ones, that is to say that learning develops in the process of learning and is not prescriptive and preconceived. A trialogical approach.

  • acquisition metaphor (monological, within mind approach)
  • participation metaphor (dialogical, interaction approach)
  • knowledge creation metaphor (”trialogical”, developing collaborative     shared objects and artifacts) – a transdisciplinary approach

Transdisciplinary approaches move beyond the interdisciplinary model by encompassing ‘real world models’, models that align with the industry they preparing for and most importantly to prepare the way for new industries in a creative (social enterprise) economy.

Faced with profound social and environmental challenges students need to be proactive game changers in the design industry, not solely seeing design as a separation but as a collective endeavour instigating collaborations with architecture, art and design for societal benefit, I quote Moholy-Nagy’s Chicago New Bauhaus text of 1937 that design education should; ‘lead to a through awareness of fundamental human needs and a universal outlook’, words as true today as they were then, imperative for the challenges we face today.

Experiential approaches need to be rooted in design programmes to acknowledge that design is part of the human experience and not a servant to profit and debt but to a shared economy that engages in our daily existence and encourages personal growth. Better understanding of the serious issues facing the world today being empathetic and responsive in seeking solutions. I advocate the ‘social agency’ model of education in design whereby students begin as professionals and are situated in collaborative work based projects, that the student is engaged in an academic real world apprenticeship grounded in social enterprise and the human discourse to the benefit of society.

A trialogical approach of knowledge-creation. Trialogical Learning refers to “Those forms of learning where learners are collaboratively developing, transforming, or creating shared objects of activity (such as conceptual artefacts, practices, products) in a systematic fashion. Trialogical learning concentrates on the interaction through developing these common, concrete objects (or artefacts) of activity, not just between people (“dialogical approach”), or within one’s mind (“monological” approach)” Wikipedia

Six characteristics of

the trialogical approach to learning and are distinguished:

1) focus on shared epistemic objects,

2) sustained and long-standing pursuit of knowledge advancement,

3) interaction between personal and collective knowledge advancement,

4) cross-fertilization of knowledge practices, 5) development

through transformation and reflection, and 6) TOWARD A TRIALOGICAL APPROACH TO

LEARNING Kai Hakkarainen Centre for Research on Networked Learning and Knowledge Building,

Department of Education, University of Helsinki (see http://www.KP-Lab.org);

What is crucial is that there is a self-reflection within the process that allows the student to construct a pathway of learning that encourages their development within a collective creation of knowledge, a process that recognizes positive failure and play as vital to learning.

The aim is to provide each learner with self-value which in turn produces a learner who is of value? An understanding that creativity is a shared experience and often the risks taken are better undertaken within groups [work based learning]. Not only is the learning shared, [learning through others, hidden learning], but the program is shared; students have participation in the process of program development alongside the tutor, alongside other practitioners from other practices, focus on shared objectives and projects, learning by doing, action learning.

In this landscape of socialization and personalized learning there is the continuous classroom, a classroom that is edgeless and extends beyond the scope of a building. With adroit use of web, social media and online services, communication and sharing, this outreach of the learning landscape makes time constraints disappear via Blog’s, Facebook, Dropbox, Google groups, You Tube, Podcasts & Webinars students continue the classroom on their own, and they share research and support each other. Tutors facilitate learning and act as guides rather than transmitters. That learning can take place anywhere and at anytime not just in one place in one centre, it is de-centered.

It is also vital to recognize is that learning continues throughout life and is not constrained to one age group [widening participation]. As external requirements change those already in the workplace will re-engage with learning, re-evaluating and reflecting on the new challenges of the work place. It is also important to acknowledge that learners bring knowledge with them as well as develop knowledge through the learning experience.

It is necessary to have a structure that needs to be adaptable and attuned to continual changes in online and physical communication. The terminology of the curriculum needs to reflect the changes not only in technology but in the needs for better societal growth and well being. The learning environment is a seedbed and the curriculum is a vehicle for growth. Through synchronous management the de-centering can be held together with the use of the Internet and adroit socialisation of physical space. These seemingly paradoxical aspects of online and physical, local and global, shared and individual are no longer in conflict. Individuals have found collective spaces where they share communication; collectives with similar goals, ‘closed’ interests and differences are symbiotic. Close knit groups that are both local [regionally and in interests] are at the same time set in a global context, straddling vast spaces in ‘virtually’ no time. The computer online has no real definition of space because you could be communicating with your nearest neighbour or some-one thousands of miles away, yet the manifestation of the solution takes place in real space to real people, a crucial understanding that all these elements are tools for user experience. The computer at the same time inhabits physical space through the user.

Among the many challenges in the 21st century are those of ecological and sustainable concerns, not just in the natural habitat but also in ones personal and societal sphere. Again this acknowledges that our world is shared and that our contribution is valuable to shaping it. Dialogue, discourse and direct action initiate the future, it does not just happen, it happens because of us. Our actions shape it. This requires a responsibility for the whole not just for ourselves. We need to understand these responsibilities through learning and shared dialogue to better serve humanity as professional designers.

• Personal learning environments-continuous classrooms

• Shared learning [learning through others, hidden learning]

• Socialization of Space- socialized learning environments

• Synchronous management via Internet

• Use of on-line services and social networks

• Communication between-staff-student, student-staff, staff-staff and student-student

• Work based Learning-Action Learning

• Group base dynamics

Social Learning Spaces Context

Phillip D. Long


Three major trends inform current learning space design:

  • Design based on learning principles, resulting in intentional support for social and active learning strategies.
  • An emphasis on human-centered design.
  • Increasing ownership of diverse devices that enrich learning.

These trends have been catalyzed by constructivism, digital technology, and a holistic view of learning.

The emergence of the constructivist learning paradigm has led to a focus on learning rather than teaching. It allows us to reevaluate classrooms and to consider informal learning spaces as loci for learning. If learning is not confined to scheduled classroom spaces and times, the whole campus—anywhere and at any time—is potentially an effective learning space. That holistic view of learning presents challenges, however. First, the demands on student time and attention continue to grow; even residential institutions have over-scheduled students. Second, learning doesn’t just happen in classrooms; learning also occurs outside the lecture hall. New strategies for enabling learning and accommodating the multiple demands on student time have led to rethinking the use, design, and location of learning spaces.

Berry O’Donovan Oxford Brookes University UK
Principal Lecturer in Learning and Teaching, Business School

  • social activities (eg eating and drinking, getting to know people, staying in touch with people, hanging out, meeting in groups)
  • learning (eg studying with others, group project work, meeting with advisors, student rep. meetings)
  • technology (eg writing, editing, printing, online research, email, online discussion, online workshops/collaboration, playing games (?) and socialising online

Internationally, Scandinavia and the US were seen to be leading the field in social learning space. In the States, the notion of providing a college ‘commons’ is becoming widespread – a central area that provides a raft of student and staff support facilities often with a library and student study spaces (group and individual) as a central focus. I have always assumed the term ‘commons’ is used to describe these spaces in the same way as a village ‘common’ depicts a central tract of land belonging to the village community as a whole.

To rethink the design of learning in the context of space and the social interaction within that space needs to acknowledge that many present learning environments are based on outdated models. The Classroom with the ‘sage’ on the stage, the regimented organisation of the room, and the constrained curriculum of one place for learning are no longer relevant. We will all recognise these types of spaces that reflect a Victorian factory model, clock in when the bell goes, and go to your workbench and produce, this does not foster creativity and the faster growing employment sector is the creative industries. Many diverse spaces now exist and the time frames for learning are also changed. What was relevant in the past is no longer relevant now. Contemporary industries are constructed differently and education needs to change its approach to space and interaction within learning to graduate students who can compete in this new environment. Socialisation is what a new generation are involved in through social media, through the possibilities of interacting with online content to produce consumer content.

Students learn as much from each other as they do from us as lecturers? This maybe contentious but it is true; we need to acknowledge that students are active participants in learning not passive vessels. The construction of the environment has a profound bearing on the student’s attitude to the world, they engage differently from those students of the past. The sharing of space where staff are facilitators/mentors/coaches with more experience is enhanced by those spaces that are shared between students of different practices. If an interdisciplinary approach is sought, and we live in an interdisciplinary world governed by transmedia technology, then we need to construct space that enhances this. The success of businesses such as:


Playing with Pixar: The art and science of spontaneity and story
Pixar, arguably the greatest digital storyteller of our time, is an easy source of school-environment inspiration: Its studio is a place where magic results from a potent blend of art and science, work and play, digital and analog. In Melena Ryzik’s tour of Pixar Studios for The New York Times, one catches a glimpse of the whimsy, transparency, recreation, and technology on campus. But listening to Steve Jobs’s philosophy behind the design reveals something deeper — that its layout was designed to foster “forced collisions of people,” because “the best meetings were meetings that happened spontaneously in the hallway.”


This $30 billion game-changing technological company realizes that valuable innovations are born from serious play, deep teamwork, and a holistically engaged (and cared for) staff. A tour of Google’s Chicago office we took with a group of educators and educational architects revealed many things, such as the power of allowing employees to control their spaces and expressing local character in a global company.

Notice their approach to use of space. Students graduating will initiate new enterprise that is conducive to contemporary industry practice. Group dynamics are a vital consideration, by working in teams, sharing space on a social level, interacting with clients and evolving citizenship through learning will put those graduates at the forefront of global enterprise.

In groups where space is socialized even in the formal construct of a course projects can establish an awareness that people bring to the table different approaches to a problem and in this encounter group talk about the contextual and practical realities. Group members determine priorities for action and the roles they will take. Group members can then see how their accounts of reality cross or differ from others. Begin an understanding of their own individual strengths and weaknesses, allowing them to collaborate effectively and understand the importance of diverse character in the solving of problems.  Talking about realities frequently reveals dilemmas and boundaries to a specific problem. An underlying benefit of social learning is that shared reflection is the needed for people to take responsibility for the decisions, which will attempt to address the dilemmas. Learning is process within the context of the project and the learning outcome, producing reflective thinking and social impact to engage in real world issues.

Seminar Outline

Learning Environments for Innovation:

Learning Environments
Constructs connected & collaborative environments where interactions between staff and students are mediated through the learning processes of knowledge creation.

Such shared creative learning environments establish flexible & tolerant approaches to a world of dynamic problematics. An experimental context in which reflexive and iterative learning processes may thrive by being both ‘wrong’ & ‘right’.

Facilitates Critical Communities of Praxis
Building intersecting critical communities of praxis requires the continuous & iterative interrelationship of theory & practice in interdisciplinary environments. Communities of praxis allow personalised learning to be negotiated & nurtured in shared spaces to establish mutualised intellectual, creative & social capital

Knowledge as practice
·        Through socialised action & reflection, knowledge-in-use derived from the dynamics of practice. The shared synthesis of systematic inquiry, recording & analysis & critique codifies observable real world practice as formalised & abstraction collective knowledge.
Knowledge as identity
·        Self emerges through personalised participation in Communities of Praxis: learners, through engagement with the interdependent worlds of ideas & action, construct their individual identities – the cognitive stylisation of self.

Citizenship in Communities of Praxis
·        Self governance emerges in a distributed system with horizontal accountability, in which decisions are negotiated collectively.

Shared Creativity – Sharing Practices within social learning environments
Students & staff are collectively accountable through shared practices where meaningful engagement and competent action take place within the negotiated environments, with mutually agreed roles and responsibilities.
·        Students invest their experience of social practice in the learning environments and give others access to them.
·        Individuals express their identities – recognizing that cognition is enactive and affective as well as conceptual.
·        Students are able to self-actualise as well as meet social responsibilities

Learning as partnership
Partnership in a learning process takes into account the difficulties of group relationships. To learn to work with others who may not be ‘friendships’ is crucial to enterprise.


© Pete Nevin @ Studio Nevin Education

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