Learning Spaces beyond the Zombie Trance

Over recent centuries there has been a misguided zombie-like acceptance that the best learning occurs within the four walls of a classroom. Now, thankfully, more and more people are snapping out of their trances and appreciating that learning occurs anywhere and everywhere – and the best of it often happens in highly unexpected places.
Learning spaces – a term that has found favour in relation to this trending appreciation – are the settings for learning environments of all kinds. Their locations can be indoors, like a classroom, training room or library. Or they can be outdoors, such as a shady spot under a tree, an oasis in a desert, a park in a metropolis, or at a beach. They can be actual, in the sense that you might be sharing them with people who are breathing the same air as you, and with things you can reach out and touch; or virtual, like the worlds you enter through the portal of your laptop or smartphone.
Essentially, learning spaces in terms of their settings and uses are as wide in variety as your imagination. They can be used for individual reflective study, for passive learning with a chalk-and-talk presenter in front of you in a bricks-and-mortar environment, for active learning in dialogue with colleagues or team members, for learning of skills on-the-job at a workplace, or providing subconsciously acquired learned experiences as we move from place to place in everyday life.
We can configure the learning spaces in different ways. We can arrange the tables and seating for groups to suit the type of learning that is being facilitated – for example, theatre-style for the passive learning approach, cafeteria-style for discussion in syndicate groups, and U-shaped for the encouragement of dialogue among all participants.
Particular types of learning spaces can and should be found for your learning style and preference. Importantly, with an eye to the future, they should be chosen with care. For your individual formal study, for example, why become so attached to a little space in your home to read your books and make your notes when the exam you will be sitting will be in a harshly lit assembly hall surrounded by rows and columns of tense examinees over a period of two or three hours? The message is simple – take the opportunity to do some of your study in a similar environment.
And if as a teacher or trainer you’re still doing most of your work in front of rows and columns of fidgety passive learners, snap out of the zombie state. Turn your imagination to creating a variety of learning spaces that learners want to use for their satisfaction and enrichment.

Contributed by Dave Hornblow, July 2017

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