Research

Learning Landscapes is a subject of ongoing academic research at Lincoln and globally.

The University of Lincoln has contributed significantly to the development of Learning Landscapes, leading a national research project with ten other universities and built environment consultancy DEGW (now part of AECOM). The project report and supporting materials, published in 2010, are available on the Learning Landscapes in Higher Education project website.

The project defined ten principles for the development of effective learning landscapes in higher education:

  1. Drive research into effective teaching and learning
    There is an increasing amount of research into what constitutes effective spaces for teaching and learning. This research provides a basis for the design and development of new pedagogic environments. Decisions based on research evidence add a sense of security and confidence, as well as an academic sensibility, to the design development process. This research-based evidence challenges academics to reconsider the ways in which they use space in their own teaching and learning activities. Some of the most compelling evidence shows that the most effective spaces are those that deconstruct the dichotomy between teaching and research.
  2. Provide support models for staff and students on how to use innovative spaces, with provision for mentoring
    Teachers and their students need help in using new spaces effectively. Without support, there is a tendency to revert to traditional practices even in the most innovative pedagogic environments. Experimental spaces enable academics to try out new ways of working with the support from staff with particular expertise, for example, how to use technology to enhance teaching and learning in different situations. Key to this culture of support and mentoring is that new spaces should be both teacher and student centred.
  3. Include students, as clients and collaborators, ensuring their voices are heard
    Student intelligence is an important resource for the design of teaching and learning spaces. Students come to university with a wide variety of experiences derived from the innovative use of space at school, college, work and play. The experiences of students can be used to inform the design and development of new teaching and learning spaces. The views of students can be gathered from already existing student satisfaction data, e.g, the NSS. The student voice needs to be supported and developed so as to impact effectively on decision making processes in the design and development of new spaces. Academic staff can be educated so as to be able to support and hear what students are saying. The most effective spaces occur when students have responsibility for what goes on in the space and how the spaces are being used.
  4. Evaluate spaces in ways that are academically credible, based on measures of success that reflect the kinds of activities that are taking placeEvaluations of teaching and learning spaces in higher education tend to be based on occupancy levels, i.e. efficiency. Evaluations of space do not usually include the extent to which space is being used effectively with regard to the types of activities that are occurring in the space. This means moving from a focus on ‘spaces’ to ‘places’ with an emphasis on the social and pedagogic rather than the financial and the material; as well as the development of outputs that are more relevant to the academic community than cost-based measures. These outputs might include rates of student success and achievement, retention, accessibility and employability. The development of these student centred measures will facilitate greater engagement with academic staff in space planning and development.
  5. Understand the importance of time as an issue for space planning: not just space, but space-time
    Key to the successful development of new teaching and learning spaces is the relationship of the new space to the teaching timetable. It may be that the traditional timetable model runs counter to the possibilities that are provided by new pedagogic environments. Consideration should be given to the amount of time required by different types of spaces to ensure these places are used effectively. It may be the case that spaces can be used differently depending on the time of day, for example, teaching and learning during office hours, and as a place for research and quiet study at other times of the day and night.
  6. Connect the learning and teaching space with the campus as a whole, in ways that articulate the vision and mission of the university
    The vision and mission of higher education institutions can be enhanced by the ways in which teaching and learning spaces are designed and developed. The distinguishing feature of the most effective university architecture is its visionary quality, and the extent to which it challenges the utilitarian and the ugly, the functional and the flexible. While effective teaching and learning spaces have distinguishing and discrete features, the vision and mission of a university can be enhanced by ensuring that each new teaching and learning space is designed so as to create the feeling of a coherent campus by articulating a sense of community and connectivity based on a university’s identity and brand.
  7. Recognise and reward leadership that supports the development of learning and teaching spaces
    Academic staff must be motivated and inspired to engage with teaching space design and development, and to take the lead in driving this agenda forward. An awareness of the importance of the learning landscape can be written into a university’s professional as well as promotional material, forming part of an educational provision to support continuing professional development and an essential requirement for gaining promotion. Universities can provide funding to support innovations in the design of pedagogic space as well as awards for achievements in this area. Each institution should develop ‘champions’ to generate and maintain enthusiasm for the development of teaching and learning spaces. Students can be made ambassadors for the learning landscape. The role of the champion can be professionalised by the creation of formal posts at sufficient levels of seniority to be able to affect real institutional change.
  8. Create formal and informal management structures that support strategic experimentation
    Formal committee structures are not the most appropriate forums to promote innovation. Universities should develop processes that promote strategic experimentation while remaining connected to the central decision-making structures. These can take the form of action groups working on the development of particular projects, or ‘think tanks’, or ‘imagineering’ or ‘sand pit’ events, i.e., interactive and free thinking sessions where academics from a range of disciplines, as well as students, estates professional and other support staff and key stakeholders come together as part of a collaborative thinking process in a creative environment to uncover innovative proposals for the development of new teaching and learning spaces. The most innovative spaces for teaching and learning tend to emerge from institutions with devolved leadership structures and high levels of autonomy and independence between the central administration, schools and departments.
  9. Clarify roles, grounded in supportive relationships between and across professional groups
    Universities can develop processes that support progressive working practices between academics from different subject areas, estates, professional and other support staff and students. By gaining insight into each others’ professional preoccupations, these processes can counteract negative stereotyping between different professional groups, and generate a culture of mutual trust and respect. A key to the development of progressive working relations is that different professional groups remain within their own particular areas of expertise, and that the roles within project working groups remain unambiguous. For example, it is important to be clear about which individual has responsibility for the ‘sign off’ of a project. Some institutions use the spaces designed for student social learning as spaces to facilitate debate and discussion among and between professional groups.
  10. Intellectualise the issues: generate debate on the nature of academic values and the role and purpose of higher education: the idea of the university
    Academics are contributing to the design and development of teaching and learning spaces as clients and customers of project management groups. The academic voice can be further enhanced by challenging academics to intellectualise the debate about teaching and learning space by reference to the custom and tradition, principles and preoccupations of their own subject areas. These debates can be generalised to include academics from other subject areas within an institution and from across the higher education sector. The subject of this generalised debate is teaching and learning space in the context of the role and nature of higher education. Situating the learning landscape debate within the context of academic values grounds the concept of innovation and design as part of an ongoing debate about ‘the idea of the university’. This debate must be made accessible to all staff and students, and extend beyond the university campus.