Canadian, German, and Icelandic Students’ Views of their Learning Spaces: A Cross Cultural Perspective

By Rena Upitis, Anna Peterson, Meagan Troop, Jennifer Davis, Julia Brook and Holly Ogden.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper is part of a three-year international study on architecture as pedagogy conducted across publicly funded, purpose-built, and Waldorf schools in Canada, Germany, and Iceland. The article focuses on students’ perceptions of the ways in which their schools are designed and furnished. Individual interviews, focus-group interviews, and photographs of each school building and its surrounding grounds were used to explore the complex interrelationships between students’ experiences and school spaces. Three features emerged as positive contributors to student life across all ages, geographic locations, and cultural settings. These included (a) gathering spaces with sofas, (b) windows and natural light, and (c) community use. Students experienced two other features (outdoor spaces and bathroom facilities) both positively and negatively. Students demonstrated an ability to clearly articulate and communicate their perceptions. Actively soliciting student input can constructively contribute to the modification of existing school environments and to the design of new learning environments.

Keywords: School Design, Student Views, Outdoor Environment, Furniture

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 4, Issue 6, pp.275-286. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 658.173KB).

Dr. Rena Upitis

Professor of Arts Education, Faculty of Education, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

Dr. Rena Upitis is a former Dean of Education at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, and is currently Professor of Arts Education at Queen’s University. She just finished a six-year term as National Research Co-director of Learning Through the Arts, a multi-year project that brings artists to the classrooms of over 100,000 students. Her current research revolves around the ways school architecture both constrains and opens up possibilities for learning, described in a newly completed book manuscript titled Raising a School. Rena teaches courses on arts and technology, cognition, and research methods. She has worked as a music teacher in inner-city schools in Canada and the United States and has been a studio teacher of piano and music theory for over 30 years. Rena frequently presents at conferences and publishes widely in academic and professional journals. Two of her books, focus on teaching music in elementary classroom. Another co-authored book, explores ways of approaching mathematics through the arts. Rena’s research has been recognized by several awards, including the George C. Metcalf Research Award (2002) and the Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies Publication Award (2005).

Dr. Anna Peterson

PhD Candidate, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

Anna is a PhD student in Education. Her Master’s research, conducted in Iceland, used photo elicitation techniques to determine students’ views of their learning environments.

Meagan Troop

Queen’s University, Ontario, Canada

Meagan Troop is a doctoral candidate in Education at Queen’s University. She is interested in the pedagogical conditions that support transformative learning in adult students.

Jennifer Davis

PhD Candidate, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

Jennifer is a third year PhD candidate in Education. Her doctoral work focuses on how Aboriginal teachings can influence secondary school character education. She has also conducted research on Canadian students’ views of their learning environments.

Julia Brook

PhD Candidate, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

Julia is a third year PhD candidate in Education. Her doctoral research examines how the music curriculum is taught in rural settings across Canada. She has also conducted research on school architecture in Manitoba schools.

Holly Ogden

PhD Candidate, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

Holly is a second year PhD student in Education. Her prior research focused on how school musicals affect people throughout the lifespan. She has also conducted research on school architecture at several schools in Germany.

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