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The Design of School Buildings. Potentiality of Informal Learning Spaces for Self-Directed Learning

Fouad, ATZ; Sailer, K; (2019) The Design of School Buildings. Potentiality of Informal Learning Spaces for Self-Directed Learning. In: Proceedings of the 12th International Space Syntax Symposium (12 SSS). International Space Syntax Symposium: Beijing, China. Green open access

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Schooling systems could be perceived through three main dimensions: students, the learning process and the built environment portrayed in the school building. Each dimension comprises different parameters. This research has chosen to focus on the spatial affordances of the school buildings specifically the affordances of ‘informal learning spaces’ for students’ activities including ‘self-directed learning’. Informal learning spaces are continuously overlooked within existing research. They are the spaces outside classrooms: assembly spaces, dining areas and circulation corridors, where students take initiatives to construct their own knowledge through different activities: reading a book, doing homework, revising for exams. These activities are defined as self-directed learning. The theoretical framing of this paper brings together the Gibsonian concept of spatial affordances i.e. possible actions that occur in the built environment with the systematic study of potentialities arising from configuration according to Space Syntax. Informal learning spaces will be evaluated through Bernstein’s concept of classification and framing. Classification is the degree of boundary, which applies to the curriculum, school system and more importantly the space itself. Framing is the locus of control, i.e. who controls the process of learning and its material, which also applies to spatial control. The paper investigates the design of two school buildings in London to explore the key design features that could impact the students’ learning. Using interviews with architects and a detailed space syntax analysis, it highlights the potential of various school spaces to afford the students’ activity patterns. The design process and the configurational analysis indicate that both schools show differential potentialities for self-directed learning. The degree of classification and framing influences the spread of activities, especially the ones initiated by the students: self-directed learning. School A seems to afford a horizontal grid distribution of activities along the main spine and the central arcade (lowest Visual Mean Depth spaces). School B has an overall vertical organisation scheme around five circulation networks and five house assembly spaces. The spatial configuration seems to afford the spread of students’ activities within the assembly spaces. The design of school A is argued to represent weak classification (boundaries) and strong framing (control). There are weak boundaries within the open plan arcade space and spine. Accordingly, self-directed learning would potentially spread organically along the building within low VMD spaces, when students need to be seen, mix and study together: assembly spaces, wide corridors and arcade; and within high VMD spaces when students need to concentrate: multi-use lab and study rooms. Still, the school communicates strong framing, due to the high degree of control within the classical design of the closed classrooms and studios. The design of school B is the opposite case of strong classification but weak framing. The school maintains strong boundaries between the five houses and their assembly spaces. Activities could flourish within each house boundaries and its dining area according to the management’s rules of dividing the building (strong classification). The open large learning platforms called ‘super-studios’ maintain low degrees of control over the learning activities, thus communicate weak framing. Insights presented in this paper lay the foundation for understanding the potentiality of the main design components inside the schools (assembly spaces, dining rooms, circulation spaces) to induce and accommodate students’ self- directed learning, thus to be considered by architects in future school building design.

Type: Proceedings paper
Title: The Design of School Buildings. Potentiality of Informal Learning Spaces for Self-Directed Learning
Event: 12th International Space Syntax Symposium (12 SSS)
Location: Beijing, China
Dates: 09 July 2019 - 11 July 2019
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: http://www.12sssbeijing.com/proceedings/
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the version of record. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: School Design, Spatial Configuration, Self-directed Learning, Informal learning spaces, Affordances
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > The Bartlett School of Architecture
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10078539
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