LEaRN Commissioned Project funded by the University of Melbourne (Learning and Teaching Initiatives Grant) for one year from 2011 to 2012.
With new generation learning spaces being built in hospitals across the world, research into the influence of space on the learning process may be pivotal to understanding the effectiveness of these spaces in supporting learners, learning, teachers and teaching.
This study small scale research project was designed around two case study ‘lecture spaces’: one located in the old Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH, Melbourne, 2011), and another in the new Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH, Melbourne 2012 onwards). The later was designed to provide students and educators with a better overall environmental experience and opportunities to develop new approaches to learning and teaching. These spaces were chosen to investigate the question, ‘How might changes to the physical learning environment influence the pedagogical activities and educational experiences of medical students and teachers?’
Below: Images of the traditional lecture theatre in the old Royal Children’s Hospital (August 2011) and of the new generation learning space in the new Royal Children’s Hospital (August 2012).
Detailed project outline
With new generation learning spaces being built in hospitals across the world, research into the influence of space on the learning process may be pivotal to understanding the effectiveness of these spaces in supporting learners, learning, teachers and teaching. Therefore, this study aimed to investigate how changes to the physical environment might influence the pedagogical activities and educational experiences of medical students and teachers.
The case study sites were the old Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH, Melbourne, 2011), and the new RCH (2012) thought to represent world leading design in terms of hospital- based learning and teaching environments. The new spaces were designed to provide students and teachers with a better environmental experience and opportunities to develop new approaches to learning and teaching.
The methods included surveys, observations, and a focus group. Participants included medical students and educators. Ten medical educators and cohorts of students undertaking the Child and Adolescent Health term in the Department of Paediatrics (one in 2011 and another in 2012) participated.
A variety of physical and socio-spatial issues were identified, relating to design, pedagogy and use of technology. The shift from a traditional lecture theatre to a new generation learning space provided evidence that design could inhibit existing pedagogies but it was found that new generation spaces alone did not foster new approaches to teaching and learning. Observations indicated that the medical educators would benefit from opportunities to both observe and reflect on alternatives ways in which the new generation learning space might be used pedagogically. Support in the form of observing others, discussing exemplars, coaching, mentoring, feedback with reflection, project-based learning, online programs and participation in communities of practice could supplement attendance at more traditional group professional learning sessions.
The study’s recommendations included that pedagogies best suited to meeting the educational objectives of medical courses should be identified and interrogated prior to the design of learning spaces. Following design, it was believed that the key to offering high quality learning experiences for medical students was to provide health professional educators (teachers) with opportunities to reflect on their teaching, their teaching practices and support to enable them to adopt the pedagogies best suited to their educational objectives.
Publications and project outputs
The results of this study has not yet been made available. For further enquiries please contact Ben Cleveland.
Acknowledgement: The researchers would like to thank the Royal Children’s Hospital, Department of Paediatrics, the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences and the Learning Environments Applied Research Network (LEaRN) at the University of Melbourne for their support, along with the students and educators who took part.