School Context, Learning Space and the Learners

School Context

The educational context for the chosen learning space is a single-sex secondary school educating over 1000 11-18 year-old females located in Queensland, Australia.  According to the Year 12 2019 Destination Survey, 79% of students went on to university, 5% to TAFE/vocational study and 11% in employment (reference withheld, 2019). This data appears to align well with the school’s mission and vision statements which emphasise that the school seeks to promote engaging, inquisitive and passionate learning within a challenging, collaborative learning environment [reference withheld, 2018b].  The aim for teachers is to provide a positive teaching and learning environment based on mutual respect and open communication (reference withheld, 2018a).

The My School website Index of Community Socio-Education Advantage [ICSEA] indicates that the school’s ICSEA value is 1131 (average value 1000) indicating that the level of educational advantage of students at the College is above average (ACARA, 2020).  1% of students at the College are indigenous and 4% of students have a language background other than English (ACARA, 2020).  A Diverse Learning program is offered for students with learning difficulties and students with high academic ability.

The Chosen Learning Space

The identified learning space, known as Library Area 3 (LIB3) (see Figure 1), is one of six library learning spaces which can be booked by class teachers and outside tutors.  Of all the library spaces, LIB3 is the space most like a typical classroom.  It is located furthest from other potential library classes allowing for some reassurance of a quiet learning and teaching environment when teachers book LIB3.  The space can seat approximately 30 students.

Observations of use of the space within the past six months, have revealed that it is used for independent reading, holiday borrowing (with class teacher), teacher librarian-led lessons on information literacy including tips for interacting with the library web page and research guides, independent/group research lessons, debating meetings, and IT induction for new staff.  The space is also used by students for independent or pair work at lunch time and after school.  Teachers also choose to book the space because of its close proximity to one of the library printers.

Figure 1: Map and Images of Library Area 3 (hover over image or click to enlarge)

Analysis of the Learners and their Needs

Design Thinking is the methodology which will be used to orientate the design process (see Figure 2) due to the focus on human-centric, iterative creative processes whereby user needs underpin the process (Gibbons, 2016).  Empathy stage design activities which have informed early design considerations include observations of how learners, teachers and other stakeholders use the space (and other similar spaces in the library), informal discussion with students about their experiences within the space, user interviews with teachers, including the Head of Library (teacher librarian) and Head of Study Skills program, and a qualitative survey of one of the classes who regularly use the space.  At this stage, it is acknowledged that a limited number of stakeholders have been consulted.  Initial data gathering will help with the creation of progressive personas (Gibbons, 2018).  A planned school-wide library services survey, including questions about user experiences with the identified learning space, will allow for future ‘circling back’ and aggregating of initial research .

Figure 2: The Phases of the Design Thinking Process (Author/Copyright holder: Teo Yu Siang and Interaction Design Foundation. Copyright terms and licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

An Empathy Map has been created to help visualise and articulate what is known about the users of the chosen learning space (see Figure 3).  The aim of the map, a tangible artefact in the design process, is to create a shared understanding of user needs which will form the basis for future decision making about the space (Gibbons, 2017; 2018).

Figure 3: Empathy Map for Library Area 3 (hover over image or click to enlarge)

Next: Concepts and theories underpinning contemporary learning space design