From the Field

Of Special Note

From the Archives - Planning Spaces for Science: How to Get it Right

A once-in-a life time opportunity: planning a space for science for an academic community, a complex and creative planning opportunity. How to get it right?


Recognize that although complex, the process of planning for new spaces for science is straightforward, similar to that needed to achieve any major academic initiative. The first step is to establish a clear vision that has wide-spread and visible community ownership and that becomes the foundation from which subsequent goals and strategies are determined.

This vision must evolve from extended conversations (time consuming and sometimes contentious) about the nature of learning for the 21st century students who will use the spaces, about the nature of the culture of your community they will serve, and about the power and potential of 21st century technologies to strengthen student learning and community culture. Finally, these conversations must connect to the larger context in which your community pursues its vision and goals for student learning.

Shaping a vision for 21st century learning is where the complexity begins. Questions will soon surface that call for significant, campus-wide introspection about the institutional future.

Read more - Planning Spaces for Science: How to Get it Right>>> 

LSC Activities

Upcoming Events

LSC Portfolios, Roundtables, Conversations & a Forum

Over the next several months, the LSC is orchestrating a coordinated series of activities exploring the future of planning 21st century spaces for 21stcentury learners. This initiative builds on the LSC focus on questions and questioning as key tools and strategies for planning learning spaces evident in recent LSC Webinars and in the 2013 LSC Guide.

In addition to work on the Guide, these activities are sparked from analyzing stories from campuses in LSC webinars over the past several years, about: questions that drove the planning, how research findings catalyzed, informed and validated the process of planning; the complexity of issues, challenges and opportunities to be addressed by planners. To establish benchmarks around current and outlier questions for discussions during the Spring, A Portfolio of Webinar Questions has been developed. It is also designed as a tool for local planning teams, illustrating the power of wrestling with questions such as:

  • Are we victims of our physical environment?
  • If buildings are “built pedagogy” and inquiry and discovery are fundamental components of learning, how are these elements represented in the way we plan and make available spaces for learning on our campus?
  • Who is responsible on our campus for decisions about learning spaces?
  • What does a space tell me about what I am expected, allowed to do in that space?

Advising this Spring 2016 LSC Focus on the Future is an informal LSC brain trust, representatives of LSC Collaborating Partners, and host site coordinators for the Roundtables and Forum.

LSC Roundtables, beginning in March, will be held at: Georgia Institute of Technology; Boston University; University of Washington; University of Illinois Chicago; Loyola University Marymount (CA). The LSC Forum will be held in June at George Washington University. The roundtables will engage a small cadre of stakeholders from the academic community by invitation and from the architectural community by application.

Opportunities will be scheduled for the LSC community to engage in these discussions.

Resources prepared for and emerging from the roundtables and forum will be posted on the LSC website, beginning in late March. There will be periodic opportunities to converse with roundtable participants during the spring. A draft report will be shared for comments late summer, with a final document, Focusing on the Future of Planning Learning Spaces, available by the end of the year.


A Portfolio of Questions from LSC Webinars (2010 – 2015)
Problem-solving: Planning Toward Substantive, Sustainable Transformation of the Undergraduate Learning Environment

(Iowa State University Aerospace Engineering Classroom)

From the beginning, the LSC has focused on questioning as a powerful tool for planning. In our early discussions, we identified four essential questions to drive the planning process. The LSC Guide is structured around these questions:

  • What do we want our students to become
  • What experiences make that becoming happen?
  • What spaces enable such experiences?
  • How do we know?

(Northern Kentucky University Griffin Hall Center for Informatics)

Questions about “the most audacious question” have been woven into various LSC conversations in recent years. As noted by John Ruskin, we believe that… To be able to ask a question clearly is two-thirds of the way to getting it answered. Why tackle planning as problem solving: 

[Problem solving] …is required whenever there is a goal to reach and attainment of that goal is not possible either by direct action or by retrieving a sequence of previously learning steps from memory. That is, during problem solving the path to the intended goal is uncertain. (National Research Council. Discipline-Based Education Research: Understanding and Improving Learning in Undergraduate Science and Engineering. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2012.)

Why understanding problem-solving as an experience in social creativity:

The power of the unaided individual mind is highly overrated. Much human creativity is social, arising from activities that take place in a social context in which interaction with other people and the artifacts that embody collective knowledge are essential contributors. (Fischer, Gerhard. “Social Creativity: Making All Voices Heard.” University of Colorado, Center for LifeLong Learning and Design.

(University of Minnesota Active Learning Classroom)


The portfolio of questions extracted and distilled from LSC webinars is designed as a resource and prompt for those responsible for the physical learning environment—be it a single, one-time project or as part of strategic thinking about the institutional future. Further details and resources are included on the end. 

Read more: A Portfolio of Questions from LSC Webinars (2010 – 2015) >>>