One aspect of the future we were interested in was the physical space in which learning is carried out. We included a question on it in our research, and found that students had difficulty in coming up with ideas that were radically different from the classrooms in which they learned, although they often mentioned that they wanted space, access and flexibility. Teachers view the physical space in which they work as vitally important, and we decided that it was important for us to get a group of students to spend some time really thinking about what they wanted an ideal classroom to be like.


The ideal opportunity for this came in UCSSC Lake Ginninderra (Lake Ginninderra in the rest of this document), with Amanda Kabaila’s Architecture class. We were initially going to do a Rich Task on House and Home, but it was suggested that we look into Physical Layout instead, and this was seen as a good way of investigating this aspect. We approached the teacher with the idea, and she was happy to allow us into her class, as they had enough time before the end of the term to do their main project, which was designing a house. We discussed how the class would be run and she told us that it would be a good idea to do a presentation explaining what we wanted and why, and to write a brief with instructions and some vital components (size, minimum window area etc). She kindly gave us three lessons to carry out the task in and the Learning School took the class, with the teacher present to help with technical detail and explanation.

The class was a mixture of Year 11 and Year 12. The younger students, having no previous design experience, worked on paper and the teacher was on hand to explain about how to draw to scale and other technical matters. The older students worked on the computers, using CADD software to create their designs, after initial rough sketches on paper. The class went well, the students came up with radically different designs and those from the students with no previous design experience were no exception. Several of the class were ESL students and needed a little more time with the teacher. She performed this task admirably, ensuring that they understood what was wanted from them without singling them out, in a good example of inclusion in the classroom.
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During the third lesson we were explaining to them that we were going to do an evaluation as it was nearing the end of our time with them and one of the Year 12 students asked if they could continue on with the project and use it as their assessed piece as she found it more interesting than their original house-design assignment. The teacher thought about it and then decided to allow the class to vote on which project they would do for the rest of the term, and the students all voted for ours! This was completely unexpected, but will mean a much more detailed body of work in the results and is an excellent example of flexibility in the classroom.

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One of the Year 12 students told us that she enjoyed the freedom of the project and a Year 11 thought that as well as helping him to develop technical skills, it helped him develop creative ideas. This is an ideal outcome for us to have got with a student, as one of the most important things about our work in Learning School is not only to explore creativity and different types of learning, but also to ensure that the classes that we do fit in with the learning outcomes of the students. If the work that we do is not valuable to the education of the learner, we have not done our job properly.

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The extension of the class to a full unit meant that it was using our brief that the Year 11 students had their first experience of using architecture software, and the results were varied and well carried out. The software that they use is specifically developed for architectural design, and there are several options, with varying levels of complexity. The simplest is Google SketchUp, which was the one used by the Year 11s, while the Year 12s had the choice of SketchUp or several others that require more technical skill. The use of technology in this class is paramount, as today the majority, if not all, architectural work is done on computer. Also, the classroom is not equipped with drawing tables or proper equipment for manual drawing, so the class is dependent on technology by necessity as well as by preference.

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As the resulting drawings show, the use of technology in this class allows a large degree of freedom to use imagination and creativity in their work. When we questioned the students about what hey thought about the creative aspect of the class, however, one of the five respondents said “I didn’t even know there was one”. Perhaps this is due to our brief being too prescriptive, as we did give a number of parameters that had to be met. This was done both at the recommendation of the teacher and due to our own experience, especially in Ridgewood, where many of the students suggested in their feedback that more information and examples would make classes run smoother and be more successful. On the other hand, the drawings th
at we were sent from the class display such diversity in how they interpreted the brief, that it may be that the student above is so used to being given space for creativity in this class that he or she is unaware of its presence.

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As the class was continuing, Learning School members continued to attend some of them, watching the classrooms grow and discussing with the students what their reasons were behind the features they incorporated into their designs. A great deal of creativity was displayed, and the students came up with some very different classrooms, both from each other’s designs and also from the classrooms we see in schools today. We also interviewed the students on what skills they thought that they were learning in the class, and whether it will help them in the future. Unfortunately, we were not able to remain in the school until the end of the project, but the teacher agreed to scan any paper copies as Jpegs, and to send us footage of the electronic designs with commentaries from the students discussing them. She has also agreed to give out evaluation sheets to find out what the students thought of our Rich Task, and to scan these in and send them to us also. We got five respondents to the evaluation, which is roughly half the class, from a mixture of Year 11 and Year 12, and some of the comments have been used in this case study.

We would like to thank Amanda and her students for allowing us into their classroom, and for embracing the task we set them so fully.