Thoughts from the September LSC Webinar: Transforming, Sandboxing, Repurposing Learning Spaces

What story does your space tell?

With this question, webinar participants (Transforming, Sandboxing, Repurposing Learning Spaces for Nurturing Creative Learning, Creative Learners) were challenged to think about the language and mental images of learning spaces. The featured projects, the Noel Studio for Creativity at Eastern Kentucky University and the at Stanford University might see quite different, even from the two ‘unpeopled’ photos below, it is clear each challenges mental images about what a learning space is like. Both the discovery classroom at EKU and the’s open “classroom” are intended to be provocative, provoking faculty and students to behave differently than they might in spaces more rigidly constrained, spaces that send different signals about behaviors, expected outcomes, who owns the space.

Other stories are told by these spaces, most important is of the value of learner-owned spaces, which can be defined as spaces that are inherently flexible, spaces in which students can grow, be inventors of their learning, their future. Such spaces emerged as planners asked questions such as: what do we want our students to be able to do in this space and what are characteristics of spaces in which ideas happen? What kind of spaces support convergent and divergent learning? How can space be used as a tool for learning? How does one measure the effectiveness as a space as a tool for learning?

Some final words of wisdom from the facilitators:

  • Think first about learning outcomes and behaviors, then figure out the space. Understand that spaces send signals about expected behavior.
  • Have nothing set in place; challenge users to stop and think about what they want to do in the space. Do not let the space determine the behavior. Let the spaces morph as the ideas do.
  • Put all the learning on display, showcasing celebrating the energy of colleagues; be comfortable with the messiness of learning, comfortable with work-in-progress.
  • Connect to the institutional DNA, unhinge and reconstruct the way planning of learning spaces happens on your campus.
  • Understand the visual rhetoric of your spaces; ask how they are "read" by users, visitors.
  • Recognize that formative assessment is essential as spaces will continue to evolve. 
  • Engage students at each stage of the process—as co-designers and co-creators and co-evaluators of the spaces, together with a diverse range of stakeholders
  • Make the planning an enjoyable, creative process for all.

Further reflections>>>

Upcoming Events


October 23-34, 2014
Sponsored by the Discovery Learning Research Center at Purdue University (DLRC featured in the LSC Guide)

Sandbox. Learning. Space.

Speakers will introduce the concept of sandboxing as a metaphor for a space designated for exploring approaches to enhance learning that may not be common in a given institutional setting. Sandboxing provides research opportunities to test how space that accommodates a range of pedagogies can improve learning and guide future development of learning spaces.


  • Shirley Dugdale, Dugdale Strategy LLC

  • Jeanne L. Narum, Learning Spaces Collaboratory

  • Nancy Sturm, The Sextant Group 

Fore more information, visit the Transforming Institutions Conference website.


October 27, 2014
3:30 - 5:00 p.m. EDT


  • Jeanne L. Narum, Principal - Learning Spaces Collaboratory


  • Rosarie Coughlan, Scholarly Publishing Librarian - Queen's University
  • Joseph Fennewald, Associate Librarian and Head Tombros McWhirter Knowledge Commons – Penn State University Libraries
  • Lennie Scott-Webber, Director Education Environments Globally - Steelcase Education Solutions 
  • Lee Van Orsdel, Dean of University Libraries – Grand Valley State University



November 20, 2014
3:30 - 5:00 p.m. EST


  • Jeanne L. Narum, Principal - Learning Spaces Collaboratory


  • Elliot Felix, Director - brightspot strategy 
  • Dana C. Gierdowski, Visiting Senior Program Coordinator, Writing Excellence Initiative, Office of the Provost - Elon University
  • Bonnie Sanborn, Department of Design and Environmental Analysis - Cornell University



December 9, 2014
3:30 - 5:00 p.m. EST


  • Jeanne L. Narum, Principal - Learning Spaces Collaboratory


  • Dennis Cuddy, Manager, Administration and Facilities - UMBC
  • Russ Ellis, Lab Coordinator, Integrated Science Program - McMaster University
  • Carolyn H. Eyles, Professor, P.Geo., 3M National Teaching Fellow, Director, Integrated Science Program, School of Geography & Earth Sciences - McMaster University
  • William R. LaCourse, Dean, College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences - UMBC
  • Sarah Symons, Assistant Professor, Integrated Science Program & Department of Physics and Astronomy - McMaster University

Co-sponsored by the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR)



The Centennial Annual Meeting

January 21-24, 2015
Marriott Marquis Hotel 
 / Washington, DC