The Influence of Innovative Learning Environments on Student Learning in a Mainstream Secondary School Context
The spatial organisation of schools is seen as the potential vehicle through which 21st century skills, competencies, capabilities and knowledge are acquired. Architectural designers and policy makers alike have called for the reconceptualisation of the place of learning in schools from traditional single cell classrooms to open plan areas designed to accommodate various learning activities simultaneously. The flexibility of the innovative learning environment (ILE) should promote the integration of digital technologies into teacher pedagogies but has implications too for the professional identities of teachers who have to reconceptualise the way they teach and think about their work. Drawing on Vagle’s (2014) post-intentional phenomenological approach, this study examined the intentional relationship of teachers and students with the phenomenon of interest (teaching and learning in an ILE) in a single mainstream secondary case study school. This study investigated the influence of ILEs in this school context on student learning, gathering a snapshot of the perceptions of participant teachers and students regarding classroom design and teaching and learning in the ILE. Data from questionnaires and a student focus group were thematically analysed in order to make sense of the lived experiences of the participants in the ILE. The findings suggest the existence of both potential opportunities and barriers to learning with regard to the implementation of pedagogy in the ILE, which may influence student outcomes. Based on the analysis, recommendations at a school level, teacher education institution level and policy level, including recommendations for future research, are suggested.