Theoretical Approaches to Researching Learning Spaces
Contemporary learning environment designs bring to life schools featuring loose fitting, flexible layouts that upset the stable certainty of the four-walled classroom. This article presents the argument that adopting a theoretical approach to researching the role of spatiality and space in relation to innovative building design in education will enable insights otherwise not possible, and, in the process, enhance the available store of knowledge and understanding. A review of a sample of published research that considers innovative learning environment design suggests that robust theoretical approaches are eschewed in favour of instrumental research often concerned with the role played by building fabric or with psychosocial responses to the surrounding learning environment. To adopt an alternative, theoretical perspective that privileges the concept of ‘space’ in education, it is first important to understand developments in spatiality. Exemplifying one such theoretical approach to questions of spatiality in education, Lefebvre’s spatial theory is applied to the recent development of FLS and ILE in New Zealand, though several optional theoretical approaches to spatiality are suggested as open to education researchers.