The Learning Space Design Lab mirrors a good learning process: identify challenges and goals, explore, meet constraints, imagine and create, work hands-on and prototype, discuss, play, present, get feedback, and then go and do it, collaborating with peers every step of the way.
When Autens run a workshop, they always start by giving an inspirational, thought-provoking talk about the future of schools, how people learn and how this links with spaces. An alternative is to show a video of a good, thought-provoking talk.
They then discuss the pictures of the own current learning spaces and how students choose to use them. Next, they encourage a collaborative discussion of what kind of learning experiences the educators want to aim for, always considering the perspective of the learners. This creates the design brief for the workshop.
Autens also expose the participants to many learning space examples, literally decorating the whole room with pictures and ideas. Educators can find favourites and explain what they like about it and how it links to the goals for their own learning space.
The next stage is to present the participants with a model of their school and a buffet of furniture models and creative features that can be added to the school model. Printed pictures could be used as an alternative. Now it’s time to play! Educators use the models or pictures to build a physical representation of the design brief. Participants are encouraged to have fun and be bold, brave and open-minded.
Autens may introduce creative constraints to challenge the educators to think big. They often limit the space teams can work on for the first round. For example, one team may have to great a great learning environment for 3 classes using only 2 classrooms (in 10 minutes!). The idea here is to get them started, as most adult teams tend to start talking and not acting unless they are pushed a bit. Autens want them to start using the physical artefacts to articulate and negotiate their ideas. At the end of the task, each team is given one minute to present their ideas and the rest of the group is invited to identify 3 things they like about the solution.
A second round then beings and the teams now get the entire space available to them and are free to create the solutions they want - collaboratively. This takes 30-60 minutes followed by another presentation by each team, after which there is a whole-group discussion to conclude on the main ideas to put into action.
Depending on how complex the spaces are or the range of pedagogical discussions required, more rounds could be included with their own specific challenges. For example, teams may be asked to create a space targeted at increasing collaboration between classes, a problem-based learning hub, or an area designed to boost student wellbeing. With each round, the teams present and discuss their solutions and the reasoning behind their ideas. Perhaps unsurprisingly, no team’s creation has ever resembled a traditional classroom!