Learning spaces that recognise there are many ways to learn

MARCH 24, 2016 / Events


A modern learning environment is not just something to behold (though it definitely is) – it is also something to be utilised effectively. So the opening of a new Learning Centre for our Hawkes Bay campus was both a celebration and an opportunity for further education.

We invited Mark Osborne, from Core Education, to explain the neuroscientific foundations for modern learning environments.

“In the last 15 years we’ve learnt a huge amount about the human brain,” he says. “The key learning is that there’s no right way to learn. Each student’s learning process is as unique as his or her fingerprint. Some things are consistent, but other things are quite different. That’s why we need flexibility in learning spaces.”

Some of the key differences:

  • When consuming new information, some like to read, some like to listen to a story, others prefer to look at something.
  • When processing knowledge, some like to produce a diagram or build a model, others may be comfortable with producing a few paragraphs.
  • How we learn affects our motivation to learn. Some people are happy to learn for hours, others may struggle for longer than 10-15 minutes. The trick is to understand that about ourselves, and learn to manage it.

Mark also explained some of the research around learning processes that had informed modern learning design. This included the knowledge that:

  • Students learning from each other, and peer mentoring, support the teaching and learning process.
  • Collaboration with others helps you to learn more through clarifying ideas and deepening understanding.
  • When working individually, a key discipline is reflecting on what you’ve learnt. In an hour, if you spend 10 minutes reflecting on what you’re learning, you’ll learn more than if you spend the whole time with somebody else. Reflection also helps build higher-order thinking skills.

Regional Principal Jon Bowen said the new Learning Centre was key to developing Self-Directed Learners, who could think critically, process information perceptively, analyse data accurately and evaluate situations intelligently.

Rosie Taylor, an associate with Unispace, which designed the centre, provided some insights into the design features of the Hawkes Bay Learning Centre. Watch video on Youtube

Yellow space

The busiest – where interaction and collaboration occurs. It includes a huddle space where you can have some students sitting and some standing, but all working together. It also has an interactive high leaner.

Green space

More creative – allowing for some collaboration. Resources include leaners with writable surfaces to allow students to draw what they’re talking about. There’s a library room with screens and whiteboards for groupwork. The brainstorm room has a similar purpose to the library but the layout and feel is different, to allow for creativity.

Blue space

The focused area, where students work individually. There are two quiet rooms for sound separation and privacy. There are booths created by timber slats which provide separation and privacy. There are a mix of table sizes to allow for larger project work, such as Graphics assignments.

Other features of the Learning Centre

  • There’s a “first port of call” where teachers and students can work out a plan
  • There are areas for hydration and storage.
  • There’s a project wall with writable and pinnable surfaces.
  • There’s a portal, allowing students from the Gisborne campus to be involved virtually.

More photos >>

For more on Innovation at Westmount:

Modern Learning Environments >>

Self-Directed Learning >>