Learning space design and the negotiation of power
Although a growing body of research directly relates learning space design to student experience, it is insufficiently taken forward in practice, particularly with respect to the negotiation of power. This thesis argues for interweaving the practical design benefits of Alexander’s (1977) pattern language theory with a sociomaterial approach, specifically addressing how the material and social co-construct space. At the centre of my research is the Media Hub project, the creation and ongoing transformation of an ICT classroom in an international secondary school over a three-year period. My research questions investigate, first, the negotiation of power in the context of transforming a learning space, and, second, how spatial configuration can influence students’ experience of learning and perceptions of place. I adopt a participatory action research approach, focusing on interviews with both students and teachers, classroom observations, as well as visual ethnographic data collection that captures the everyday things of education, from chairs and tables to posters and books. In the context of international schools as spaces of privilege, I first explore wider issues of space and power, drawing on Sklair’s (2005) criticism of the relationship between iconic architecture and the transnational capitalist class (TCC). I then investigate how users of the Media Hub negotiated power and competed for space throughout its development. I also examine how spatial configuration and the materiality of space influenced both pedagogy and student experience, recognizing that the intended design of a learning space can be at odds with its actual use. I conclude by considering the value of small-scale projects like the Media Hub as a counterpoint to the increasing sameness of international school design. The findings of this thesis could have implications for educators seeking to implement, and critically examine, learning space design and transformation projects.