April 2009 Seminar on "Renovating for Innovating”

Outcomes of Discussion

This seminar in conjunction with the National Collegiate Inventors & Innovators Alliance (NCIAA), and co-sponsored by Herman Miller was part of a series of PKAL activities focusing on the relationship of space and learning.

QUESTIONS ABOUT LEARNERS AND LEARNING:

  • What are your measures of successful learning? Do they include engaged learners, flexible and adaptable learners, life-long learners?
  • What are the learning outcomes (artifacts) that provide evidence of successful learning?

QUESTIONS ABOUT AUDITING CURRENT SPACES:

  • What are your measures of a successful space for learning: what works? What evidence do you have that spaces work, or do not?
  • How is a vision of undergraduate research/discovery-based learning reflected in your current spaces?
  • Do your spaces foster creative, innovative, self-directed learning?
  • Do your spaces enable and enhance engaged learning, pedagogical practices based on research on how people learn?
  • Do your spaces accommodate the need for solitude and reflection as well as ‘Brownian’ motion?
  • Do your spaces foster collaborations between disciplines, between practitioners, between naïve and expert learners?
  • How would you answer the question ‘why should people be in a particular space?’
  • In what ways can your spaces change behavior, enable desired behavior?
  • What kind of learners work best in your spaces? What kind of learning is impeded by your spaces?
  • What would you like to change about your space? Why?
  • Where are the spaces that have ‘failed’ as venues for learning? What lessons learned have been learned from those failures?
  • Who is empowered to make changes in your spaces?
  • What is your most valuable learning ‘real estate’ on your campus? Are you taking best advantage of it? If so, how?

QUESTIONS RELEVANT TO RENOVATION:

  • What would elevate an existing space to become a ‘brain-changing’ space?
  • What changes would be needed in an existing space to improve social conditions for the learning community?
  • What technologies need to be incorporated into these spaces to foster learning and innovation, building new kinds of on-site and virtual communities?
  • What reorganization of a current space would dissolve boundaries between lecture and lab, between on-site and virtual communities?
  • What compromises will have to be made for the sake of renovation?
  • What is the minimal level of renovation needed to promote creative, innovative, self-directed learning?
  • What can be easily given up in order to make the renovation affordable, doable ASAP?
  • How will questions about sustainability inform decisions about renovations?
  • How will an anticipated renovation project fit into the larger vision of your institutional future?
  • What can be taken out of a space to make it a better space for learning? How can the learner be given ownership of his/her space for learning?
  • How will the building infrastructure support renovation prototyping (‘trial runs’)?
  • What is the intended life-span of the space/s to be renovated?
  • How do spaces of your inspirational peers serve goals for student learning?
  • How can existing budgets for maintenance, physical plant be reallocated (used) for purposes of prototyping, of making low-cost and high-impact changes?
  • What are the emerging possibilities/necessities for shared spaces? What are the barriers to eliminating ‘owned’ spaces?
  • What is the desired level of flexibility and adaptability?
  • What possibilities exist to make every space on campus a learning space?
  • What can be learned from registrar’s record about space utilization that will inform our planning for renovation? Could modest changes in class schedules change our renovation needs?
  • What is our institutional aesthetic?

QUESTIONS ABOUT PEOPLE:

  • Who needs to be at the table in the process of exploring renovations, of planning renovations, of making renovations happen?
  • Do we have the right people in place? What questions should we be asking: students, faculty, admissions and development officers, alumni, prospective employers?

QUESTIONS FOR PEOPLE:

  • Students
    • What do you like about the spaces for learning you have today?
    • What do you not like about the spaces for learning you have today?
    • What would you like to do in spaces for learning but cannot do now?
    • What kind of learning experiences do you have in a typical day?
    • What was your best learning experience?
  • Faculty
    • What do you like about the spaces for learning you have today?
    • What do you not like about the spaces for learning you have today?
    • What would you like to do in spaces for learning but cannot do now?
    • What kind of learning experiences do you/your students have in a typical day?
    • If you could really push-the-envelope to arrive at a better learning space, what would that space be like? How would you describe it?
    • What keeps you up at night when thinking about learning and spaces for learning?
    • What changes do you see on the horizon that will affect the planning of programs and that will need to be respected in the process of planning renovations?
  • Facilities Officers
    • How different are your existing spaces for learning from those of past years?
    • How different are you now designing and thinking about spaces for learning than in past years?
    • How is the process different? What are the issues? Who are the people that need to be involved?
    • How integrated is your campus thinking about people/program/space? Is there a campus-wide understanding of the relationship between the quality of space and the quality of learning?
    • What measures do you use to determine the impact, the success of a space for learning?
    • What changes do you see on the horizon that will need to be respected in the process of planning renovations?
    • What are the constraints and boundary conditions that must be dealt with in planning spaces for learning?
    • What is the tension on your campus between cost and usability?
  • Potential Employers
    • What do you wish our graduates would know and be able to do? Upon graduation? Into the future?
    • How long does it take for a graduate to be of value to your community?
    • What kind of learning experiences make that happen?
    • Do you know what makes a space an environment for creative, productive, collaborative endeavors?
    • What were the best learning experiences you had in school?
    • What changes do you see on the horizon that will need to be respected in the process of planning programs and spaces to serve those programs?
  • Public and Parents
    • What do you value about the learning experiences our campus offers to students and to the community?
    • What do you know about our programs in science and engineering, mathematics and technology?
    • What kind of world do you see on the horizon that needs to be reflected in our academic program and in our spaces for learning?

QUICK FIXES (NO COST; LOW COST):

  • Make it easy to move tables around; add wheels.
  • Buy lots of flexible lockers to reduce actual and visual clutter.
  • Make visible and accessible spaces to play; (aka Herman Miller ‘toys’).
  • Make creative use of the transformative power of color; invite art faculty and students to advise (and create).
  • Build a visible digital playground that gives students 24/7 access to real and virtual learning communities.
  • Use student power to make an institutional audit of spaces for learning; send students around campus with cameras and report back (reward them with pizza).
  • Embed questions about insights about space into standard end-of-course evaluations; have them analyzed as information for space planners.
  • Put white boards, on wheels and on walls, as many places as you can. Create spaces for group work, collaboration and communication. Add flowers and great photos.
  • Find unused or poorly used spaces for prototyping renovation ideas (accommodating interdisciplinary groups, technologies, messy activity, etc.)
  • Let students compete for ‘skunk-works’ spaces, and/or for use by established student group.
  • Encourage faculty toward the inverted classroom: having student do in the course period the collaborative work that is usually ‘homework,’ and have the homework be reviewing course materials/lectures on-line.
  • Provide a budget for ‘failure’ to encourage creative exploration of spaces that work.
  • Build a for-credit seminar course for students around the nature of spaces for learning.
  • Have facilities officers talk with students about options for student-owned spaces around campus.
  • Expand the hours of access to spaces.
  • Make the doing of science/engineering pervasively (and unavoidably) visible: posters, artifacts, sculptures, displays, windows into labs. Show student work in ‘real time’ with pictures from cameras in lab featured on screens in lobbies.
  • Build new kinds of connections between existing spaces, knocking down walls, opening up windows, clarifying traffic patterns, opening a new stairway between floors of the building.

WHAT WORKS:

  • A team responsible for the quality and character of all learning spaces on campus.
  • A goal that spaces enhance institutional distinctive, reflect the unique context, circumstance, mission and identity of the college/university.
  • A strong, credible and creative shepherd, someone with a vision but without an ego.
  • A culture ready to turn constraints into something positive.
  • A culture supportive of risk-taking, experimenting (easy to do with prototyping.
  • A serious attempt to measure if/how spaces work (evidence of engagement; linking evaluations of space to measures of learning; time-lapse photography; student/faculty feedback; density and nodes of social networks; demographics of faculty/students; enrollments, success and failure of students; diversity of building use; output of collaborative work; etc.