Smart Green Schools

Educational and Environmental Outcomes of Innovation in School Building Design

An Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Project funded for three years from 2008 to 2011 led by the University of Melbourne.

About

The Smart Green Schools ARC Linkage Project investigated the influence of innovative and sustainable school building designs on middle years education in Victoria. The project focused on understanding the links between design, sustainability, pedagogy and the use of information and communication technology (ICT) within innovative, 21st century, learning spaces.

The Chief Investigators were Associate Professor Clare Newton, Dr Dominique Hes, Professor Kim Dovey and Associate Professor Kenneth Fisher with Research Fellow, Dr Sue Wilks. As a team, they brought together the fields of architecture, sustainability, education, education planning and urban design.

Ben Cleveland, an educator and Ken Woodman, an architect received scholarships and completed PhDs in 2011.

The project team found that the drivers of spatial change were:

  • The development of close relationships between designers, educators and student-users during the planning and occupation of learning spaces
  • Educators wishing to implement new pedagogies requiring a variety of spatial settings (e.g. inquiry learning, problem-based learning)
  • The curriculum being planned and taught by multi-disciplinary teams of teachers who desired agile and flexible learning spaces
  • Ubiquitous learning, i.e. learners becoming more self-directed, collaborative and resilient across a variety of spaces/settings
  • Teachers and students who were technologically literate and therefore able to use space in a variety of ways to good pedagogical effect

The research was recognized with a Vice Chancellor’s Award for Engagement.

Detailed project outline

  • Objectives

    The Smart Green Schools ARC Linkage project investigated the influence of innovative and sustainable school building designs on middle years school education in Victoria. The project focused on understanding the links between design, sustainability, pedagogy and the use of information and communication technology (ICT) within innovative, 21st century, learning spaces.

  • Outcomes

    The project team found that the drivers of spatial change were:

    • The development of close relationships between designers, educators and student-users during the planning and occupation of learning spaces
    • Educators wishing to implement new pedagogies requiring a variety of spatial settings (e.g. inquiry learning, problem-based learning)
    • The curriculum being planned and taught by multi-disciplinary teams of teachers who desired agile and flexible learning spaces
    • Ubiquitous learning, i.e. learners becoming more self-directed, collaborative and resilient across a variety of spaces/settings
    • Teachers and students who were technologically literate and therefore able to use space in a variety of ways to good pedagogical effect

    At the time of the project, the provision of new learning spaces via the federal government’s Building the Educational Revolution scheme was creating an urgent need for educators to become co-designers and skilful users of new learning environments for contemporary pedagogies. For this to occur:

    • Teachers required time and support to imagine new ways in which education could be 'done'
    • Teachers required assistance to develop the ability to visualise and understand spatial possibilities - including the reading of architectural drawings
    • School leaders needed to manage the change process purposefully, and situate spatial change with the context of educational development

    Furthermore, architects needed to develop better understandings of contemporary educational practices, through:

    • Meeting with the educator-clients frequently during the briefing, design and construction process
    • Developing an understanding of curricula and pedagogies
    • Integrating learning technologies strategically and ubiquitously with the guidence of leading educators
    • Ensuring there is effective post-occupancy evaluation to enable learning spaces to be fine-tuned to better meet the needs of users and inform future projects

    With regard to sustainability, it was found that school communities needed to develop an understanding of environmental factors in order to 'build' a closer relationship with the physical environment. The researchers engaged teachers and students in collecting and analysing indoor environment quality (IEQ) performance data, using a variety of high-tech monitoring and hand-held instruments. The outcomes were that the students developed a language to discuss environmental factors and understood some of the elements of building design – light, materials, acoustics and heat transfer. Feedback from teachers suggested that this was an effective and engaging approach to learning about the built environment and living more sustainably.

  • Impact
    • The research was recognized with a Vice Chancellor’s Award for engagement
    • The research instigated the Talking Spaces symposia as an annual event bringing together educators, designers and infrastructure managers.
    • The research was the first focused on learning spaces at the University of Melbourne. It was a base on which the Learning Environments Applied Research Network (LEaRN) was developed

Publications and project outputs

Smart Green Schools The Unofficial Overview
Smart Green Schools The Unofficial Overview (PDF 1.6 MB)
  • Edited journals
    • Newton, C. & K. Fisher, 2009 TAKE 8 Learning Spaces: The transformation of educational spaces for the 21st century, AIA, ACT, Australia.
  • Refereed journal articles
    • Cleveland, B. (2009). Engaging Spaces: An Investigation into Middle School Educational Opportunities Provided by Innovative Built Environments. A New Approach to Understanding the Relationship between Learning and Space. International Journal of Learning, 16(5).
    • Newton, C. (2009). ‘Disciplinary dilemmas: learning spaces as a discussion between designers and educators’ in C Collins,  & S Knight (eds) Critical and Creative Thinking: The Australian Journal of Philosophy in Education, Vol. 17. No. 2, UniSA, South Australia.
    • Newton, C., Wilks  S., Hes D. (2009). Educational buildings as 3D text books: - linking ecological sustainability, pedagogy and space in Open House International Theme Issue: Shaping the Future of Learning Environments, Vol. 34, No. 1, The Urban International Press, Great Britain.
    • Newton, C. (2007). Space and Learning: High Performing Green Learning Environments in The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic & Social Sustainability, Common Ground Publishing, Melbourne.
  • Refereed conference papers
    • Newton C. (2010). ‘Is the Edge the New Middle? Melbourne 2010Knowledge Cities Conference, November 16-19 2010, Melbourne.
    • Newton C. (2008). ‘Thinking like an industrial designer?’ in S Roaf and A Bairstow (eds) The Oxford Conference, 2008, A reevaluation of education in architecture, International Conference on Design Education, Oxford, UK, 333-337.
    • Newton C. (2008). ‘Learning Through Prefabrication’ in C Rust (ed) Undisciplined, Design Research Society Conference, Sheffield Hallam University, July 16019, 2008, Sheffield, UK. (CDRom).
    • Newton C. (2007). ‘A Competitive Edge’. ConnectED, International Conference on Design Education, UNSW, Sydney.
    • Newton CL. (2007). ‘Structural Tactility’. ConnectED, International Conference on Design Education, UNSW, Sydney.
    • Newton C. (2006). ‘Town and Gown: A discussion paper on the role of each in continuing education for architects in Australia’. In E Beddoe and J Jesson (eds) Out of Bounds and Borders: A Trans-Tasman Collaboration, Conference Proceedings of the Continuing Professional Education Conference, The University of Auckland, 158-167.
  • Other
    • Newton C. (2010), ‘Lilley Centre: Learning and the City’ in Architecture Australia, Architecture Media P/L, ACT May/June 10 Vol 99 No 3, pp. 73-79.
    • Newton, C. (2008). ‘Designing Smarter Schools’ Research Review, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, 08-08,  pp.  30-31.
    • Newton C. (2007). ‘A Design Excursion’ in Architecture Australia, Architecture Media P/L, ACT Vol 96 Iss 5 pp 69-70.

People

Banner: Wooranna Park Primary School, Mary Featherston Design. Photo by Dianna Snape.