#Transitions17 – Inhabiting Innovative Learning Environments



Event Website

A public research conference providing an opportunity for selected graduate and early career researchers to present their research across an international audience.

This is the 4th event, and an international symposium on learning environments.


  • How well are teachers making this transition?
  • Are these spaces facilitating any improvement in teaching practices?
  • What evidence exists that these spaces are improving student experiences and learning?
  • What is needed to help teachers better utilise space as one of their pedagogic tools?


  • The North Star is all about student success. Let’s focus there.
  • How can we support innovative learning environments and teacher change.
  • The ILETC is a multi-disciplinary centre for researching the development of effective learning environments across all educational sectors.

“Can altering teacher mind frames unlock the potential of innovative learning environments.”

Book will be published this year on research on active learning environments: “Teacher Transition into Innovative Learning Environments”

Keynote Address:

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Dr. Pam Moran @pammoran, has been the superintendent of Albemarle County Public Schools in Virginia since 2006. She was the 2016 Virginia Superintendent of the Year and a top four finalist for the AASA National Superintendent of the Year in 2016.

Ira Socol, the Director of Learning Technologies and Innovation for Albemarle County Public Schools is responsible for engineering the re-imagination of the structures within which children learn. His team work on the systems 3-12 one-to-one computer initiative, on changing physical spaces to support contemporary learners and learning, on building problem and passion-based curriculum that crosses content boundaries, and even on how we use time. He has helped to develop Professional Learning support for the schools’ “Seven Pathways to Transform Learning” – Choice and Comfort, Instructional Tolerance, Universal Design for Learning/Individualization of Learning, Maker-Infused Curriculum, Project/Problem/Passion-Based Learning, Interactive Technologies, and Connectivity.

Change Learning Change Space

  • You can’t flip learning without flipping space.
  • Capture time and recover space toward maximizing efficiency.
  • All learners will embrace learning, excel, and own their future < VISION
  • Power is shifted by the design of the room. When kids realize that their voice matters – that what they can come up with can influence the classroom and the world changes the game.

“How do we get to yea but – to what if?”

  • 14,000 students over 726 square miles for Albemarle County Public Schools in Virginia.
  • Engaged with teachers to design something that you think will change your school. This resulted in 7 pathways: transforming learning.

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  • What if we were designing learning spaces where kids would develop and sustain personal understanding, empathy, social emotional learning?
  • How do we take spaces that are unused or underused? Convert storage areas and convert them into usable space like music studios, makerspaces, collaborative spaces.
  • Students need active AND quiet heads-down time.
  • Student choice, student centered, opportunity focused are keys to UX in educational space design.

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  • How can we create space to allow students to create?
  • How can we trust our kids with tools in makerspaces?
  • How can we create environments where every learner is a teacher and where every teacher is a learner?
  • What if space and pedagogy came together?
  • What if we built spaces for educators that make them better?
  • What if we assumed that learning also occurs in a cafeteria and in the in between spaces on campus.
  • How do we give student a chance to move from the inside learning environment to the outside spaces that gives students a variety of real world applications?

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A Continuum of Learning – The Pull and Push

  • The Push of Students and their Demographics
  • The Pull of Shifting Priorities
  • The Push of a Changing Culture
  • The Shift from Public Education moving to Large-Scale Public and For-Profit
  • Linking Architecture enabling Learning
  • What do Schools and Workplaces have in Common? (Falcon Virtual Academy by DLR Group)
  • Makerspaces are part of the building blocks for learning.
  • How can spaces reduce the transition time between classes by maximizing the adjacent spaces.
  • Arlington Public Schools – Discovery
  • Dickenson Middle School – Focus on changing a cafeteria into a public event space with movable walls in classrooms to add in flexibility.
  • Evolving model of learning – move from lecture to student centered learning. Phoenix Accelerator is a good example of space for student exhibition, foldable bleachers, vertical sliding doors, makerspace, broadcast, whitebox space, drapes, etc.
  • West-Mec in Arizona is about STEM and engaging students in a flexible and authentic environments.

Exploring the use of interaction geography to advance post-occupancy evaluation


In this paper, I explore how an emerging approach to describing people’s interaction over space and time that I call “interaction geography” advances post-occupancy evaluation (POE) in educational settings. To do so, I begin by introducing my use of interaction geography in a study of how 22 visitor groups engage and
learn while visiting a nationally renowned museum located in the United States. I focus on how, in this work, interaction geography provides a way to characterize visitor engagement and learning in relation to the physical design of museum exhibits and gallery spaces. For example, I illustrate methods of interaction geography such as Mondrian Transcripts that visually transcribe visitors’ movement, conversation and social media activity over space and through time. Likewise, I discuss concepts of interaction geography such as “engagement contours” that provide ways to conceptualize how visitor engagements repeat and accumulate in relation to syntactical qualities of museum exhibits and gallery spaces. Subsequently, I explore how future POE research in educational settings could draw from interaction geography to (a) describe how physical spaces condition not only people’s mobility but also people’s conversation patterns, (b) evaluate the alignment of physical spaces and pedagogy and (c) interpret how people produce and realize their own interest-driven learning in response to intended design.


  • Interaction geography, post-occupancy evaluation (POE) in educational settings.
  • Looking a space and time and how users interact with an environment.
  • Movement patterns and differences between visitors with a variety of demographics.

Benefits of POE: Describe physical spaces condition not only people’s mobility but also people’s conversation patterns. Evaluate the alignment of spaces and pedagogy. Interpret how people produce and realize their own interest-driven learning in response to intended design.

From learning commons to learning communities: Examining the role of mixed-use learning zones in millennial education


Academic success hinges on student engagement; however, past research has mostly examined student engagement within the confines of the classroom walls. This study argues that engaging millennial and subsequent generations of students requires looking outside the classroom box. Today, knowledge is ubiquitous. Classrooms that compartmentalize knowledge and maximize students-per-square foot no longer make sense; instead, a learning-per-square foot metric must be employed—where learning transcends the classroom walls and extends into the larger socio-communal fabric of the institution.

Many institutions of higher learning are building active learning classrooms to promote student-teacher collaboration. Although these classrooms have been associated with improved educational experiences and outcomes, they frequently do not afford students co-ownership of those spaces for use outside of scheduled class time. Conversely, instructors can be challenged to utilize “student owned” common areas as breakout space during class. In this study, the mixed-use learning zone is examined where the boundaries between common spaces and classrooms are blurred, encouraging informal collision and catalytic interactions among all stakeholders. This research employs a multi-case study approach involving a survey of a national online community portal for millennials, on-site behavior mapping, and narrative inquiry. Together these instruments developed five typologies of space for mixed-space learning zones, informed the range of behaviors for each identified typology, assessed their impact on the learning experience through engaging narratives, and developed evidence-based design guidelines to help educators and designers successfully implement these spaces in practice.


  • The purpose is to examine the common and in between and informal interaction spaces for faculty and students.
  • Case studies at the University of Florida.
  • Surveys of millennials via MAVY, behavior mapping, and observation student intercept on-site surveys. Goals for identifying the ideal learning environment.

If you have a master plan for your building construction, where is your learning design plan?

Periodic table of learning


The Periodic table of learning (PToL) is a tabular arrangement of architectural spaces, spatial affects, learning modalities, and learner’s intelligences. What began as a framework to analyze educational spaces to better understand the relationship between pedagogy and architecture, the PToL became a spatial generative tool for architects and educators alike. This paper will present the research process behind the PToL and the implementation of the process resulting in the schematic design of INDY Tech Charter School in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA.

Schools, metaphorically speaking, have software and hardware components. The software involves the intangible: School’s mission statement, Curricula design, Lesson planning, theories of learning, behavioral psychology, etc. The hardware, conversely, involves the tangible: walls, supplies, furniture, décor, colors,
etc. The two are seldom designed in tandem due to a lack of spatial literacy from educators and a lack of educational literacy from architects. Architects aren’t typically involved in the curricula design or the crafting of the school’s mission statement, and educators aren’t trained to manifest educational intent into physical solutions.

If the software and hardware aren’t aligned in the design of a facility, a headmaster is left with a very expensive investment that hinders student learning rather than amplifying it. Using the Periodic Table of Learning informs spatial design by linking architectural techniques to learning attributes. Educators see, via the table, the direct correlation between their students’ learning needs and the respective architectural solutions. Architects, via the table, are psychologically and pedagogically informed in their design process.

It is anticipated that the Periodic Table of Learning will evolve into an interactive BIM/CAD tool that is accessible to educators and designers alike. The Table will introduce a new way of designing where architects and educators are both informed of each other’s disciplines. See http://david-wu.github.io/assets/table/ for an alpha version of the table in action.


  • The intersection of architecture and education.
  • Abstract rules often govern behaviors with people in spaces.
  • Architecture governs our educational experiences with spaces.
  • What are the architecture tricks combined with brain based research that make a space effective?
  • How does the space make one feel?
  • How do we learn in the space?
  • What are the learning intelligences of individuals?
  • The above questions can be mapped out with these characteristics.
  • See Website on the Periodic Table of Learning


Avoiding the learning space gap

ROBERT DILLON @ideaguy42

Learning space design in K-12 schools continues to grow as a topic of importance. Educators are looking for ways to construct and retrofit spaces that can maximize the modern learning demands of the school. As this occurs, the desire to lunge forward without purpose by decorating and buying furniture can swamp the need to remain focused on design principles. This review and analysis looks at how focusing on the research of biomimicry and its implementation into spaces can allow for focused implementations and greater learning outcomes for schools. This review and analysis expands on the author’s work from The Space: A Guide for Educators that bridges the researcher to the implementation gap that has occurred in most schools in the area of space design.


  • What if we already know the answers to our learning spaces? Based on what happens in nature.
  • Goldsworthy sculptures as inspiration…
  • What do you do if your school is viewed as a school to prison pipeline with students. 70% of students live in poverty.
  • But if we did something with the spaces based on nature – what difference would that make?
  • “Breathe the space” – take EVERYTHING out. When designing new space it’s best to start with an empty room. Take it one step at a time.
  • Met with students and teachers along the way. Where is gravity doing it’s job? What about the power of water and rivers? Agility and flexibility, sunsets – appreciate, slow down, reflect, with nests supporting kids an care for them, but then let them fly. Fire also with teachers providing a spark.
  • Do the design WITH students not just FOR students.
  • JOY – when you can bring this and scale it, great things can happen. We need to share this work.
  • Focus is to move beyond the classroom below [photo] to a space that is transformed by cues from nature.

“Our kids deserve to be in spaces that are beautiful and amazing.” – Robert Dillon

Architecture & design for the art of collaboration and creativity. The spirit of ‘we’ in learning environment. ’We learn’- a space for students and teachers to become


This project examines the potential of enhancing the spirit of ‘WE’ for students and particularly for teachers vs. the spirit of ‘I’ in learning environments. Currently, around the world, educators are transitioning from a culture of lecture-based (one-to-many) to a more facilitation-based method supporting new active learning pedagogies (many-to-one). School is a cultural structure in which a student’s success is directly impacted by his/her teachers’ own success and well-being. It is critical to redefine the teacher’s essence as pedagogy shifts to student-centered learning. A well-designed space can and should make a difference. Thus, ‘innovatively designed’ spaces supporting critical thinking, making and sharing, in a collaborative manner for the students, need to be supported by ‘innovatively designed’ spaces for educators as well; since their ‘work’ life is changing to a ‘just-in-time’ educational approach.

Today’s global workforce is focusing on effectiveness and teamwork. Therefore, it might be necessary to shift the school culture from ‘I’ to ‘WE’. The ‘WE’ cultural structure may offer environments where students and teachers have their own innovative semi-transparent places, breaking down the visual barriers and promoting visual thinking, learning and working, as in many Innovation labs around the world.

Thus, schools could become a two-main learning HUB model empowering both WE’s by promoting collaborative learning atmosphere for students, a collaborative working atmosphere for teachers and a shared space in between.

To boost the ‘WE’ culture, schools’ schedule should accommodate appropriate time during the day in which teachers can work together while students are working independently, and at times, both could meet in the shared space which could support different types of learning activities. Those shared spaces would be designed to support this type of holistic change by enhancing a ‘WE LEARN’ atmosphere for students and teachers to become – at times separately, at times together.


  • Connection between pedagogy and space.
  • School is not just a place your students learn stuff, it’s a place where students BECOME.
  • Learning is not linear, we need to move toward creative learning spaces.
  • Creativity is KEY.


  • The focus on “WE” contributes to highlighting the educational environment as collaborative.



Session three: Change and risk



Dr. Julie Marshall serves as a 7th Grade Language Arts teacher at Saluda Trail Middle School and an Adjunct Professor in the Richard Riley College of Education at Winthrop University, both located in Rock Hill, SC. She has over 25 years of classroom experience at the elementary/middle school levels in conjunction with 7 years at the university level. Julie has won many awards for exemplary teaching on the state and national level, including National Teacher of Excellence and selection as a Global Teaching Fellow. She helped develop an endorsement for teachers of students from poverty and actively helps to shape policy and practice in her state. Julie is a National Board Certified teacher and evaluator. Currently teaching in a STEAM/P21 exemplar school she is a strong proponent and practitioner of Project Based/Active Learning Environments. She was one of the inaugural recipients of the Steelcase Active Learning Center grant program. Dr. Marshall has provided local, state and national professional development on the use of PBL and Active Learning in the 21st century classroom.


  • A teacher’s journey to innovation in learning. What’s your story?
  • Momma, Where are you From? – Maria Bradby (Book on stories of who you are and what experiences you have had to make you who you are.)
  • Vision > Challenges > Victories – how can where you are from shape the direction of where you are going?
  • Active Learning Vision = Practice, Pedagogy, Preparation
  • Is your vision like this?


  • Traditional vs Active Environments depend on space and the environment.
  • Community of Inquiry

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  • Challenges
    In the classroom (wheels on furniture, student voice, stepping back, DOUBT “Have I done right by these kids?”)Outside of the classroom (confusion/misinformation, agendas, test scores, FEAR “Scared of change”)



Be passionate, intentional, be bold, be innovative, get active! 

Aligning vision with actual use of innovative learning environments: explored through the lens of organizational change


While most educators would tell you that the world of education is constantly changing, the physical environment in which they are operating has not. In addition, most schools have not made broad scale changes in teaching and learning towards multi-modal learning despite considerable empirical evidence to support. Lewins’ Field Theory, B=f(P,E) suggests that Behavior is a Function of People and their Environments. Within education primarily isolated examples of behavior change can be found paired with modifications of a specialty space in contrast to wide-scale behavior change found in new workplace or medical environments. My research explores Lewin’s theory further in order to distinguish, and learn from, the schools that are able to make the change from those that are not by answering the following question:

What steps need to be taken, from an organizational development/Change Leadership perspective, to ensure Innovative Learning Environment’s (ILEs) are used as intended?

To answer this question, I focused on a successful school, Glenn High School, with Innovative Learning Environments (ILEs). I utilized the Burke Litwin Organizational Assessment Survey in conjunction with an analysis of their Change Leadership process to explore causal relationships between steps-taken and the achievement of behavior change. I found that the participants were highly-aligned around transformational areas and still have work to do in the transactional aspects of the Organizational Assessment Survey. A clear Change Leadership process was utilized to support intentional culture creation aligned with the original vision. These results suggest that strong and consistent leadership, especially in conjunction with proven Change Leadership process may explain Glenn’s success in change. Comparison of the pattern of Assessment Survey data of additional successful schools and unsuccessful schools may allow a better understanding of what steps need to be taken, from an organizational development/Change Leadership perspective, to ensure ILEs are used as intended.


  • B=f(P,E) Behavior is a function of people and the environment.
  • Google workplace environments = casual collisions

School change: Case studies and how to achieve the “buzz”

Many schools today understand the need to prepare students for our somewhat unknown future in the modern, global economy and often turn to the built environment as a catalyst for change. They are trading in their identical classroom model for activity-driven, technology-infused spaces allowing for movement and variety in the learning experience. Through this, schools envision a future in which teaching, culture, and space align seamlessly creating a campus filled with an intangible “buzz” of learning and engagement. However, changing space is easier than changing practice. Research and experience show many of these schools fail to supplement the design and construction of new or renovated facilities with initiatives to align teaching practices, organizational structures, and leadership with the intended vision, assuming the new facility itself will spur the desired change. However, this often only results in a misalignment between the pedagogical goals of the building and its subsequent use. This is one of the many realities fuelling the current Innovative Learning Environments and Teacher Change (ILETC) project and the lens through which my personal research occurs.

As a Fulbright scholar with the ILETC, I am embarking to answer the question, “What characterizes a successful transition of a school from traditional classrooms to an innovative learning environment in the context of the design and construction process?” I am completing case studies of schools who are in new buildings and have achieved the “buzz” with plans of unpacking their process to inform the design, construction, and transition of future schools. On-going findings will be discussed.


  • Buzz – active and energized.
  • Success is… where is the teacher in an active learning classroom – they are embedded.
  • Teacher focus groups, interviews, tours, and exploration.
  • Emerging Themes: pre-occupation enablers, organizational enablers, spatial enablers – these are interrelated, nonlinear, subject to moderating variables
  • Layered scaffolding for change: government (school design/vision), leadership (time, evaluation, non-negotiables), educators (routines/relationships), students.
  • When no structure is provided, teachers will create their own…
  • Space as a proxy for pedagogy.

The built pedagogy of personalized learning as designed opportunities for student voice and choice


The design of the physical spaces are an important – yet often overlooked – component of learning. In prior research on K-12 personalized learning programs (PLPs), our team found that teachers had radically modified their classrooms and buildings, from knocking down walls to adding sofa chairs and lamps (Authors, 2015).

The stark contrast from the expected desks in a row, prompted the question: How does the design of physical spaces in PLPs provide opportunities for student voice and choice? In an instrumental case study (Stake, 1995) of four PLPs, I draw out design affordances (Norman, 1994) from patterns of teacher and student use in order to understand the complexity of physical spaces, pedagogy, and student agency. Four meaningful patterns of use emerged: spaces designated by purpose, flexibility in student movement and furniture, regular assembly of a local learning space, and students as co-designers. Each of these affordances aligns with choices students have over their learning process and even points toward potential mechanisms for developing agency and community.

Most research on flexible learning environments in personalized learning ignore the physical spaces, but these findings argue for their consideration in any pedagogical model. This challenges educational leaders to see spaces as a built pedagogy and reflect on what their learning spaces communicate to teachers and students about what learning looks like and who is valued. To be sure, physical spaces do not solely determine student learning experience, nor is changing physical spaces a panacea to enact pedagogical change, nor was it my goal to quantify the effect of physical spaces on learning outcomes. What this study illuminates are the ways the physical space is connected with students’ voice and choice by design.


  • The co-design of physical spaces is integral to building a culture of agency (students have choices of what how when and where).
  • Culture as built in and through physical spaces (key is physical shapes the experiences)
  • Personalized learning: competency-based progressions, flexible learning environments, personal learning paths, learner profiles
  • Personalized Learning White Paper [PDF]
  • 4 designed principles: Flexibility, Visibility, Variation, Movement
  • You don’t create culture by talking about it you create it by working together.

Using interactive learning spaces for global diplomacy: A social justice collaboration between US and international students


Faculty members from the Department of Social Work and the Intensive English Institute collaborated on projects aimed at international diplomacy and social justice. The collaboration included a mix of social work students enrolled in social welfare policy courses and international students enrolled in English courses for nonnative speakers. Students involved in this three-semester collaboration focused on topics such as human trafficking, poverty, and immigration. Students had to explore these topics using international perspectives and identify global strategies for addressing these social injustices. A secondary objective of this collaboration was to help international students integrate into US-based higher education and to help social work students engage individuals from a variety of diverse backgrounds.

This collaboration took place in an Interactive Learning Space at Ball State University. Faculty members used learning methodologies such as inquiry, team, and problem-based learning to engage students in the educational process. The collaboration was made possible because of the learner engagement tools available in the Interactive Learning Spaces (e.g., portable whiteboards, various projection sources, polling tools, and movable furniture). This furniture allowed students to take ownership of their space and supported the transformation of the classroom into an inclusive legislative body.

This presentation will outline the lessons learned from faculty members and students who participated in this international collaboration. This includes a review of student learning outcomes, student feedback about the collaboration, and a review of the role space played in enhancing student success. The presenters will review both quantitative and qualitative data to support the use of Interactive Learning Spaces to improve student outcomes, faculty growth, and discovery of new pedagogical approaches.


  • Challenge is bridging the gap between the active learning classrooms vs “traditional” classroom arrangements.
  • Course assignments: electronic posters, papers/presentations (shared findings through interactive technologies),  interdisciplinary connections

The case for space: Creating 21st century rooms to learn

In the context of a rapidly evolving knowledge economy, creativity has become one of the most highly regarded qualities of a 21st century graduate, across age levels. Creativity appears as an attribute in Mehta and Fine’s (2015) definition of deeper learning, and in the widely used rubric of the four C’s for 21st century learning (EdLeader 21). Research on the theory and practice of creative learning is young, especially in relation to learning environments. This paper proposes a framework for designing learning spaces that foster creativity. Culminating the work of both head and hands, creative learning can be defined as the rigorous process of creating a high-quality product. Creative learning involves a continuous spiral of activity that maps onto a two- by-two matrix, with flare versus focus on one axis, and engagement with objects versus people on the other. This paper will summarize findings from design research conducted at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and Innovation Lab, as well as observations and design work with thirty K-12 schools across the United States. Preliminary findings will be presented on the validity of such a model as a rubric for designing and assessing learning environments for creativity.


  • One of the 4 “c’s” for 21st century learning.
  • Harvard Graduate School of Design
  • Harvard Innovation Lab
  • How might we define a creative learning process through the ways that learners USE space?
  • Learning spaces are activated when you listen to learners (the space users) and ask the right questions.
  • Room2Learn


Characteristics of learning spaces favouring the development of computational thinking skills


Since the 1980’s, our industries have embraced digital technologies to improve practices and increase efficiencies. Consequently, physical spaces have been redesigned nurturing communication and collaboration giving birth to a new set competencies (Webster, 2015). Amongst them, computational thinking (CT) skill seems to be one of the most competencies needed it in all domains of the industry (Wing, 2006/08; Bundy, 2010; Barr & Stephenson, 200; Grover & Pea, 2013). While its definition is still not clear, the school system seems to struggle to design a process favoring its development. With that being said, could the classroom (learning spaces) hinder the CT development? We are at the very beginning of trying to understand the complexity of the relationship between the learning space and the development of computational thinking skills of students.


  • New spaces are needed as a result of technology for communication, collaboration, and problem solving.
  • The mismatch between formal education and the challenges of an innovative society.
  • Connected library, teachers notebooks, model schools, NB321ck, demo schools, BYOD