As an aspiring urban planning scholar, I’m frequently exposed to discussions about the importance of creativity to cities. I should preface this by stressing just how multifaceted the field of urban planning is… There are so many ways to approach things in urban planning. It’s both a blessing and a curse really… but that is a story for another day and time.
On December 11th, 2015, McGill’s Teaching and Learning Services (TLS) held a symposium for faculty with a focus on translating aspirations for student learning into pedagogical strategies. The event, Teaching What’s Important: Educating Students for Today and Tomorrow, called upon a range of university professors to showcase their strategies and experiences, and join the discussion about the possibilities for undergraduate education at McGill. With a turnout of 135 (a mostly faculty members, but also staff and a few students), the discussion was certainly though-provoking. For some highlights, please see below: Continue reading Teaching What’s Important: Symposium Highlights→
Lauren Soluk, graduate student in DISE , shares an opinion piece on the importance of designing institutional spaces that promote creativity.
Many of us have heard Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk, Schools Kill Creativity (if you have not, I urge you to watch it here). He argues that schools are educating people out of their creativity capacities and as a student, I would agree with this statement. That said, I am not here to write about the perils of schools or how to fix them because that topic is much to extreme to cover in less then 500 words. Instead, I want to consider a small change in institutional design that might help to spark the creativity movement in higher education. Today, I am going to write about space.
In recent years, there has been a shift in learning pedagogy for teaching practices to follow student-centred, constructivist methods. Constructivist methods, and more specifically, social constructivist methods advocate that knowledge is constructed through the active participation of individuals and crowds. If we compare what we know now about learning to our current institutional infrastructure, one is bound to recognize that they do not parallel each other. Institutional classrooms were, and many still are, built for passive learning in a lecture format. There needs to be a change.
Space can be created and manipulated to foster innovative and creating thinking. For example, consider Google’s office in Zurich, Switzerland (see image at left). Rather than having standard cubicles for their staff, Google has opted for a more creative “office.” While I recognize that it is nearly impossible to have a space similar to this one in a university setting, I urge institutional designers to use this image as a springboard for creative classroom and learning commons designs.
Long & Crawley have offered an alternative design method to the traditional approach to space design. They have developed the CDIO process (conceive, design, implement, operate), in which the learning environment is not viewed as space that needs to be redesigned but rather a “product” which needs to be developed. Following this CDIO process, we can ask the questions, “What kind of a space will produce creative and innovate thinking? What kind of space will support social constructivist learning pedagogy?”
From the Institute of Design at Stanford University, Scott Doorley and Witthoft brought readers a book entitled, Make Space, which was designed to set the stage for creative collaboration. Doorly and Witthoft provide tools (e.g. furniture and wall designs), situations and scenarios that can inspire thinking, case study examples, and a design template for how to build collaborative environments. They introduce readers to design concepts such as Cul-de-sacs (spots to gather, linger, and chat), the peanut gallery (where spectators can drop in and out without disturbing people), T-walls for writing, and foam cubes for sitting .All of these concepts combined, and others, can blend to form collaborative and innovate learning environments.
So, with all of this information on how space can inspire and foster creative and innovative thinking, it is time for institutions to step up and put student learning first; let us take a step towards re-designing institutional space that supports active, student-centred and constructivist learning pedagogy (and maybe even dispose of the dismal lecture hall, for good!).
For further reading:
Doorley, S. & Witthoft, S. (2012). Make space. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
OWP/P Architects, VS Furniture and Bruce Mau Design. (2010). The third teacher. China:Abrams.
Prof. Terry Hébert, Pharmacology and Therapeutics, shares an opinion piece originally published in “The Scientist.”
An interesting piece. How can university administrators best foster the creativity of the faculty. A difficult question given the funding climate. Do we depend too much on external funding? Has it made us too cautious? Read the article here.