Once upon a time, philosophers like Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift met their associates in coffee houses to discuss ideas and to question the universe.
“You wouldn't call that a learning space or a teaching space,” says Head of the School of Education Peter Aubusson, “but it was a space where people learned from each other, and thought about great ideas, and came up with imaginative ways of changing the world and the way we think about the world.”
The ‘environment facilitating teaching’ is exactly the kind of thinking that’s led to the School of Education’s purpose-built learning spaces in building 10. The revamp of these spaces and others in building 10, took out a 2016 Learning Environments Award (NSW Chapter) last December.
We’re moving away from ‘there's a place where you go to learn’, and ‘a place where you go to work’, and ‘a place where you go for recreation’
"We’re moving away from ‘there's a place where you go to learn’, and ‘a place where you go to work’, and ‘a place where you go for recreation’," says Aubusson.
It is now about “creating spaces that allow students to do those sorts of things that don't just happen in the classroom. Things that happen in the informal spaces and when we network online; we don't want to see those things as separate.”
That’s why level 4 of building 10 is now home to light, airy, state-of-the-art classrooms for visual arts, science and music, as well as a space (complete with squashy beanbags and touchscreen devices) that’s designed purely for experimental learning. They’re flanked by relaxed breakout areas with open plan desks and pods for quiet study or group work.
Says Aubusson, “Take a walk and you might see students creating music around coffee-style tables on level 4 or wandering from their classroom to create YouTube clips, developing a role play or producing an animation.
“Students often begin face-to-face then collaborate online before sharing their ideas more widely with others. We’re aiming to make it seamless and easy for students to use the best mode of learning for their work at any particular time.”
The atmosphere they’ve created makes you feel like you're doing training to get into a classroom, rather than ticking boxes to complete your degree.
Education student specialising in secondary science teaching Adrian Evangelista has been taking advantage of the new rooms. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he’s most fond of the science labs, which include microphones, smartboards and cameras that project and record classes. “It’s good to test out these technologies here, before getting into a real classroom,” says Evangelista.
“I never wanted to be a 'scientist who teaches'. I greatly enjoy science but a science degree was not for me. I've been driven to this course and its facilities because I want to be a teacher who specialises in science. At UTS, there is a strong emphasis on modern teaching techniques, resources and atmosphere. This allows me to be placed directly in the shoes of those I will one day be teaching – an opportunity not adequately offered in other conventional science laboratories.
“The atmosphere they’ve created makes you feel like you're doing training to get into a classroom, rather than ticking boxes to complete your degree.”
And, as the use of technology in schools increases, Aubusson says our teaching students need to be prepared. “The environment in which our students are going to work will be diverse.
“There is no one technology that they’re going to use and there is no standard classroom or workplace where learning will occur. We have to build the capability of our students to work across a range of platforms, and to be able to employ those effectively,” says Aubusson.
“Hence, we need to be focusing on the pedagogy, then be able to adapt the varied technologies and spaces across formal and informal settings to enable those learning to be as effective as possible.”