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Exploring Avenues to Interdisciplinary Research: From cross to Multi to Interdisciplinarity 2007 The University of Nottingham
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Exploring Avenues to Interdisciplinary Research: From cross to Multi to Interdisciplinarity 2007 The University of Nottingham

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Andrea Wheeler (2007) Building Sustainable Schools: Are places of social interaction more important than classrooms?

Andrea Wheeler (2007) Building Sustainable Schools: Are places of social interaction more important than classrooms?


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  • 1. Building Sustainable Schools: Are places of social interaction more important than classrooms? Andrea Wheeler, RCUK/ESRC Early Careers Interdisciplinary Research Fellow, The University of Nottingham, Institute of Architecture and School of Education
  • 2. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS This work is part of an ESRC Early Career Interdisciplinary Fellowship Research Project:How Can We Design Schools As Better Learning Spaces and To Encourage Sustainable Behaviour? Co-Design Methodologies and Sustainable Communities. 
  • 3. KEY QUESTIONS/PURPOSE OF THE STUDYTo research how we can build better learning spaces, and to explore this from within an interdisciplinary perspective, discovering absences and points of conflict (lacking in current research).To explore what is the relationship between learning, teaching Eco-Citizenship and encouraging sustainable behaviour? How each relates to architectural design. One of the questions of the project, is whether the social adaptation to climate change (the ethical issues) could be the most important and useful issue for young people to learn.To explore participation techniques and practices with children and how to listen: To explore place making and techniques and to analyse why children’s participation/voice can remain tokenistic in many projects.To explore social cohesion and sustainable school communities: How do young people understand sustainability and sustainable communities – Have we something to learn from them?
  • 4. OUTLINE OF PRESENTATION1. The Context: Academies and the BSF programme.2. Interdisciplinary: The problems of current research within this field.3. The relation of architecture, curriculum and sustainability. Teaching to meet the challenge of global warming and the potential of co-design practices. Potential Implications for Policy and Practice in this area.4. Early Pilot Research Findings – Young people’s perspectives.
  • 5. 1. AIMS OF THE NEW SCHOOL BUILDINGPROGRAMMES (Academies and BSF) …The Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme launched in 2004 is described as set up: To improve the fabric of school buildings, either through refurbishment or new build; At the same time as transforming learning and embedding sustainability into the educational experience.The BSF programme, is committed to rebuilding or renewing every Secondary School in England over a 10-15 year period, to spending £45 billion on the school’s estate in the UK, and is now in its very early stages.The first Building Schools for the Future School, Bristol Brunel School (formally Speedwell Technical College), was officially opened by the Prime Minister Gordon Brown on the 6th September 2007. Designed by Stafford Critchlow of Wilkinson Eyre Architects.
  • 6. “It is worth emphasising the scale and scope of BSF; there is no project likeit anywhere in the world. Not since the huge Victorian and post-war buildingwaves has there been investment in our school capital stock on this scale,and of course the potential for new ways of learning has moved onconsiderably since then” (House of Commons, Education and SkillsCommittee, 2007, 13).“The investment will enable the construction of high quality classrooms,kitchens, dining halls, sports and ICT facilities and staff and communityrooms. We aim to have school buildings that are both inspirational andget the basics right; school environments that are by turns practical,sustainable, delightful, pleasant, accessible and secure: buildings thatsupport the principle that every child matters and serve the localcommunity” (House of Commons, Education and Skills Committee,2007).
  • 7. “New school buildings should serve their communities for many yearsto come and it is important that they facilitate good teaching andlearning, provide attractive and comfortable environments for all users -staff, pupils and the wider community - and that they are robustenough to need minimal maintenance over time. Excellent design willinspire teachers and learners, optimise inclusion and help to improvebehaviour and attendance. Design quality encompasses a number ofissues but should include sustainability, flexibility, adaptability and valuefor money” (House of Commons, Education and Skills Committee2007).
  • 8. TRANSFORMING LEARNING ANDSUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT- Aims of the building programmeTeachers themselves have expressed concern that they are not clear whattransformative learning or embedded sustainability really mean in theBSF programme design terms.In consultations carried out with teachers, reinforced in questions posed atthe British Council for School Environments Summit in July 2007, it is moretime that teachers say they need, time to explore what they want theirschools to be. The Design Council in a Press Release issued on the 13thAugust called for more support for Head Teachers, and time for schools toprepare so they can be “good clients”.
  • 9. More holistic approaches to what sustainable development andtransformative learning might mean for any particular community havehad currently had too little discussion.What is certain is that greater thought has to be directed to theskills young people will need in order to adapt to the economic andsocial changes climate change will bring.
  • 10. AIMS OF THE NEW SCHOOL BUILDINGPROGRAMMES (Academies and BSF) …
  • 11. AIMS OF THE NEW SCHOOL BUILDINGPROGRAMMES (Academies and BSF) …Link to a video about the opening with Gorden Brown and Ed Balls: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLYBEidc5f8
  • 12. AIMS OF THE NEW SCHOOL BUILDINGPROGRAMMES (Academies and BSF) …The BSF Samworth Academy in Bilborough,Nottingham, sponsored by The University ofNottingham. Architect, Graham Nobel, AtkinsGlobal.
  • 13. 2. INTERDISCIPLINARY RESEARCH AND THE NEED FOR EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE PROBLEMS WITH THE CURRENT CONTEXT… Woolner et al. (2007) suggests that Government research should consider the evidence for the relationship between environment and learning (especially where there is a general enthusiasm towards evidence based policy) She sees a paucity of clear, replicable empirical studies about the relation of architecture and learning. But in so doing she dismisses the judgements of architects (architectural/professional experience is not evidence). HOW TO ASSESS SCHOOLS BUILDINGS?
  • 14. Each school will have its own set of problems to address, in addition to policyobjectives. Just as the social and environmental aspects of sustainable development arenot separate issues; neither are improved learning and sustainability those to beaddressed independently and attached at a later date. Each school will require a uniquecontext-based solution to both learning and the environmental and social aspects ofsustainable development, As the Department for Children, Schools and Families(formally the DfES) publication Schools for the Future: Design of Sustainable Schools, states:“Sustainability in schools is highly context-dependent: what works for one school with aparticular set of requirements and constraints may not be so successful elsewhere”(DfES, 2006, 6). This is the nature of the problem. How architects’ address the aims ofBSF for improved learning and sustainability will be a complex challenge, and alreadythere are fears of failure.
  • 15. 3. WHY ASK YOUNG PEOPLE?And do the architect’s and teachers really listen?How to ask young people?
  • 16. And how to listen.Some practices assume architects need to be talked to in the language of a schedule of space requirements, told the toilets have to be better, and equally the corridors. Is this really helpful to architects having to meet complex needs of transformative learning and sustainability? In this way the social and emotional aspects of learning can be filtered out of participation exercises.
  • 17. 4.PILOT PROJECTSWhat do you think a sustainable communityis?Pilot projects/focus groups with young people 16-19.Pilot projects/focus groups with young people 12-15.
  • 18. THANK YOU! Andrea WheelerAndrea.wheeler@nottingham.ac.uk