After many years researching the role physical learning environments play in the creation of learning environments in schools, I am turning my attention to the workplaces of teachers. My hope is to develop a current and deep knowledge of contemporary workplace trends for adults, especially those who work in innovative, creative and collaborative work environments. As education moves away from the factory / industrial model that dominated 20th Century schools in the West, teachers need to be viewed as innovators, knowledge creators, designers and curators of learning environments. They are also working in a world saturated with technology and myriad ways of connecting with learners and colleagues. Surely, this calls for an evaluation of the places where teachers work?
Overwhelmingly, the school design literature argues school buildings matter, school design matters to those who use the spaces everyday as part of their daily life, be they staff or students. However, have we taken the design of classrooms to the next level in recent years, but left behind the adult work spaces in our schools? To date, limited research has been done in the area of teacher workspaces and the impact new pedagogies have had upon the way teachers work together in the staffroom. After visiting some adult co-working communities, I started thinking about the design of teachers’ communal workspaces and the types of professional learning communities current staffrooms create. The types of questions I am working towards answering are:
- What role does the staffroom play in the contemporary school?
- What is needed to create better spaces for teachers to work, innovate, collaborate and mentor one another?
- If we change the spaces, will the way teachers work change?
The first stage of the PlaceShaping Project
Rationale and process
I will be visiting a range of new collaborative office spaces establishing themselves through professional and start-up networks. Trust and creating authentic connections are key tenets of these adult work communities. Flexible, agile physical spaces are also key to their impact and fulfillment of the notions of connect, learn and share inherent in these co-working spaces. These spaces will also allow me the opportunity to investigate the creation of cross-disciplinary professional learning communities and opportunities for innovation and team building amongst staff.
The PlaceShaping Project as it develops over the next year will be recorded online (https://placeshaping.wordpress.com).
The importance of this project
This project addresses a gap in the current research into redesigning schools and, specifically, designing working environments for teachers that enable and enhance their work life. My project also addresses key aspects of the NSW School Leadership Capability Framework (for examples, Leaders have the capacity to interact with people and work constructively in a team) and National Teaching Standards for Lead and Highly Accomplished Teachers (for example, Standard 6.3 Engage with colleagues and improve practice).
Using the findings of my project, I plan to make a strong argument for why the design and provision of teacher workspaces needs to be reconsidered, re-imagined and considered as part of a holistic design of all schools.
Visiting adult workspaces
As an ongoing part of my project, I will be visiting adult workspaces, and my first major research trip will be to London. Whilst co-working is a global phenomenon, the creation of these spaces has expanded enormously within London in recent years. The spaces are created by a full range of co-working communities, Google has set up a campus in the new high tech neighbourhood of East London, universities have design communities and Impact Hubs has three sites, and at the more expensive end, there are club style networks of permanent and casual office sharing. I will spend ten days visiting a variety of spaces and places, as well as attending a conference on contemporary workplace trends.
The second stage of the PlaceShaping Project
Development of the PlaceShaping website and connecting with the design and education professions. The site will become an online record of my research as it unfolds. It will also be developed as a research tool and a place where teachers and designers can interact with my project.