PKAL Learning Spaces Collaboratory

Vision, Goals, and Strategy

PKAL LSC Vision:

That all 21st century undergraduates, no matter their background or career aspiration, have ready access to physical learning environments that enable them to become engaged learners:

  • Constructing their own learning, actively involved with cooperative, problem-driven teams
  • Communicating and collaborating with peers and colleagues, formally and informally, face-to-face and virtually
  • Connecting their campus-based learning experiences to real-world opportunities and challenges
  • Celebrating as members of a robust 21st century community of learners.

The physical environment that serves such a vision is one that provides undergraduates opportunity to acquire the skills, capacities, depth of knowledge, and self-awareness that prepare them for their future responsibilities as engaged members of the 21st century workplace, engaged citizens of a free society.

The cultural environment that serves such a vision is one in which there is a communal understanding of and commitment to goals for student learning across the campus, as well as a recognition that building community is both means and end of the process of planning spaces for learning.


The primary goal is:

  • To inform the work of campus planning teams with responsibility for shaping, maintaining and renewing undergraduate learning environments—whether the focus be remodeling a single classroom; recycling an out-dated library; renovating for interdisciplinary STEM learning and research; redesigning the landscape/greening the campus; imagining, designing, constructing, and maintaining a major new facility; developing/implementing a multi-year agenda for shaping formal and informal learning spaces campus-wide.

Toward that end, further goals include to engage a broad community of stakeholders in:

  • Promoting evidence-based design as a foundation for shaping and reshaping physical learning environments in colleges and universities across the country
  • Supporting the design and development of physical learning environments in which all undergraduates, now and into the future, can become engaged learners
  • Capturing emerging best practices for imagining, designing, building/renovating and maintaining spaces for undergraduate learners, distilling and disseminating relevant resources as broadly as possible.


Our central strategy to implement those goals is to create and catalyze a feedback loop through which the broad community of stakeholders can share, critique, adapt, and advance best practices and lessons learned in the process of planning undergraduate learning spaces, giving attention to the entire campus as a laboratory for learning, as well as to individual spaces and buildings that are settings for formal and informal learning, recognizing that every space is a learning space.

Feedback loop:

The feedback loop will be implemented in several ways, through:

  • A PKAL Learning Spaces Collaboratory website. (Introduced: July 2010.)
  • Annual PKAL LSC national colloquia. (1st colloquium scheduled for November 5 – 7, 2010. What We Know About Planning Learning Spaces and What We Still Need to Know; Westfields Marriott Washington Dulles (Washington DC area).
  • Monthly PKAL LSC webinars. (Beginning fall 2010.)
  • Irregular PKAL LSC regional workshop and seminars. (July 30, 2010: Considering implications of ‘green chemistry’ for integrating renewal of program and space; St. Olaf College, Northfield MN.)
  • Facilities/learning spaces planning consultancies. (Upon request from campus planning teams/design firms.)

This PKAL Learning Spaces Collaboratory is a work-in-progress. It is being developed with the advice and counsel of many, including academics experienced in imagining, planning, and assessing learning spaces. Professionals in fields of designing, constructing and maintaining such spaces will be actively and visibly involved. Organizations with a mission related to strengthening undergraduate learning, and/or with a vision about the ideal 21st century learning space (student-centered, agile and adaptable, renewable, sustainable [“green”], technology-enhanced, etc.) will also have a significant role in shaping and orchestrating this collaboratory

The PKAL LSC website: A central feature of the feedback loop will be a website, a vehicle for presenting and discussing resources designed to inform and facilitate the work of those responsible for the quality and character of undergraduate learning spaces. As it evolves, this website will include:

  • Research papers on theories of learning, on the relationship between learning and the built/natural environment, as well as on how various constituent elements of the space/facility serve project goals.
  • Selected essays, guides and tools from PKAL’s existing ‘facilities planning portfolio, as well as from the community of stakeholders—collaborators, academics and practitioners.
  • Announcements and alerts about meetings, articles, publications, and other activities of possible interest to the PKAL LSC community.
  • Case studies describing the process and outcome of recent planning initiatives that address common contemporary planning challenges and opportunities, spaces that:
    • accommodate 21st century research-based pedagogies and curricular approaches, encouraging collaborative learning within and beyond the formal classroom
    • permit innovative (pilot) approaches to enhance learning, dissolving boundaries between disciplines, levels of learners, formal and informal learning
    • are contextual, celebrating and enhancing the campus aesthetic
    • make creative and cost-effective use, short- and long-term, of contemporary systems, tools and technologies for operating the facility, illustrating also promising practices in reusing, recycling, and renewing existing spaces
    • signal to the broader community what is important to, and distinctive about, that college or university.

JULY 2010. We introduce the PKAL LSC website by presenting:

  • A Portfolio of Sustainablity Case Studies: How to use sustainability as a driver for the integrated planning of program and space. These nine case studies were developed in collaboration with the National Council on Science and the Environment (NCSE), and presented in a pre-workshop at the 2010 NSCE annual meeting. Further contributions will be made to this ‘sustainability’ portfolio during 2010.

Other portfolios to be developed in 2010 include:

  • How to do more with less: leveraging current planning and budgets; identifying ‘low-hanging fruit’ and opportunities to ‘sandbox’ planning; exploring and implementing initiatives to reuse, recycle, and renew existing spaces—considering short- and long-term learning/facilities goals
  • How to embrace and engage the learner in the planning process: recognizing that all users are learners and that building community is both means and end of the process.

Information on how to submit stories for these case study portfolios will be posted on the PKAL Learning Spaces website.