Where does learning occur?

Killing time’ at a bus stop could be that exciting new opportunity for studying, reflecting or applying new learning.
Where does learning occur? Spaces for Knowledge Generation project

Where does learning occur? A simple question.  Yet it’s one that really opens one’s thinking to new perspectives.

Given the ubiquity of mobile devices with fully featured web browsers empowers students to learn in an ad-hoc, time efficient way that has never been possible before.  Therefore, ‘Killing time’ at a bus stop could be that exciting new opportunity for studying, reflecting or applying new learning.

What an exciting opportunity to stop, and rethink what that means for informing and designing learning experiences.

At a university level, the Spaces for Knowledge Generation project specifically look at their physical environment to enhance ad-hoc learning opportunities. After interviews and surveys of their students, it was clear students strongly identified with learning as “movement between different parts of their lives” more specifically – three levels of learning space:

  • The Coast (social/semi-permanent/reformable)
  • Eddies (moving, reforming)
  • Plateaus, tablelands (generative/didactic/permanent)

From this they identify 7 key considerations:

  • Comfort: a space which creates a physical and mental sense of ease and well-being.
  • Aesthetics: pleasure which includes the recognition of symmetry, harmony, simplicity and fitness for purpose.
  • Flow: the state of mind felt by the learner when totally involved in the learning experience.
  • Equity: consideration of the needs of cultural and physical differences.
  • Blending: a mixture of technological and face-to-face pedagogical resources.
  • Affordances: the “action possibilities” the learning environment provides the users, including such things as kitchens, natural light, Wi-Fi, private spaces, writing surfaces, sofas, and so on.
  • Repurposing: the potential for multiple usage of a space.


Similarly, the schools sector is preparing physical environments for flexible blended learning (online and offline) environments:
Considerable evidence correlates poor conditions with negative outcomes on students and teachers... [and] ...student engagement increased in newer, well-designed buildings. Greene, Miller et al.’s (2004) research noted that student perceptions of classroom structures were important for their motivation, particularly if current class work was instrumental for future success. This included how the curriculum was reshaped in the new buildings (Blackmore, 2011).

Fisher (2005) links the structure of the physical space with the pedagogical learning approach:


So when conducting your Learning Needs and Resource Assessments – give a moment to the Learning Space that you and your learners will be in and how that’s going to enhance or hinder the learning experience – or create great new ad-hoc opportunities.


Fisher, K 2005, Linking pedagogy and space, Learning Futures, Rubida Research Pty Ltd, http://www.education.vic.gov.au/Documents/school/principals/infrastructure/pedagogyspace.pdf, accessed 13 July, 2016.

Fisher, K 2007, Next- or Net- Generation Learning Spaces, Carrick Institute, http://www.uq.edu.au/nextgenerationlearningspace/Fisher.pdf, accessed 13 July, 2016.

Blackmore et al 2011, Research into the connection between built learning spaces and student outcomes, Education Policy and Research Division, Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, https://www.eduweb.vic.gov.au/edulibrary/public/publ/research/publ/blackmore_learning_spaces.pdf, accessed 10 July, 2016.

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