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Designing for adaptation: The school as socio-spatial assemblage

Authors:
  • University of Melbourne & Flinders University of South Australia

Abstract and Figures

Over the last century we have seen a slow transformation of the architecture of school classrooms in response to changing pedagogical theory and practice. A shift from teacher-centred to student-centred learning is accompanied by the move towards a more ‘open’ plan with new spatial types, interconnections and modes of adaptation. This paper seeks to understand this linkage of plans to pedagogies in the case of the middle school. Using an analytic framework of assemblage theory, clusters of learning spaces from a range of recent innovative school plans are analysed in terms of capacity for socio-spatial interconnection and adaptation. Five primary plan types are identified, ranging from the traditional classroom through various degrees of convertibility to permanently open plans. Patterns of spatial structure and segmentarity emerge to enable new forms of teaching and learning on the one hand, but also to camouflage a conservative pedagogy on the other. If traditional classrooms with their corridors and doors can be understood in terms of Foucaultian disciplinary technology, the new learning clusters suggest a use of Deleuzian social theory to understand an architecture of connectivity and flow. Through an analysis that is intended to reveal rather than eliminate ambiguities, architectural capacities for ‘convertibility’ from one pedagogy to another are distinguished from properties of ‘agility’ or ‘fluidity’ that enable continuous adaptation between learning activities. We find that the most popular types have high levels of convertibility and reveal conflicting desires for both discipline and empowerment. We also suggest that the most open of plans, while cheaper to build, are not the most agile or fluid.
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