In-between Learning Spaces TLC follow-up from Andrew and Katherine

Andrew and Katherine’s TLC was packed with new and interesting ideas that generated a lot of comments, ideas and questions.  Inevitably, in 60 minutes it wasn’t possible to address everything that was raised in detail.  We have looked through the recording, the text from the chat pod and the responses posted to the free text polls and pulled together a brief set of follow-up question which Andrew and Katherine have kindly responded to below.

  1. There was a lot of terminology used in the session e.g. 3rd place, 3rd space, connecting space, in-between learning etc.  Is there a lot of overlap between these in practice? Where can I find some clear definitions to help me unpick these concepts?

Andrew: We considered whether we should spend time in the webinar introducing related concepts in detail. We decided this could be very dry and decided to take a flipped approach by posting links to related ideas beforehand.

Katherine: In the blog post ‘A conversation about Third Space, Third Place, and Liminality’ a comparison of the various concepts is central to the conversation and should therefore be quite helpful in addressing the overlaps and similarities in these concepts.

Andrew: We also decided to use the term ‘in-between space’ as a broad way of representing what is quite a diverse discourse on liminality, Third Place, Third Space, hybridity and non-formal learning. As someone developing the design of learning spaces I would point to Michael Eraut’s (2000) work on non-formal learning as a starting point. His proposition challenges the inadequacy of the term ‘informal learning’ and helps us to see the importance of learning that is intentional, incidental and so forth, but controlled by the learner.

Katherine: And I would point to Catherine Cronin’s work on Networked Learning – http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/fss/organisations/netlc/past/nlc2014/abstracts/pdf/cronin.pdf

and Gutiérrez, K. D. (2008), Developing a Sociocritical Literacy in the Third Space. Reading Research Quarterly, 43: 148–164. doi: 10.1598/RRQ.43.2.3

Andrew: Some of the ideas we made reference to conflict with each other. Some describe the intersection of spaces (e.g. hybridity) while other ideas represent different spaces – Katherine: Oldenburg’s idea of Third Place defined as a community space with first place being Home and second place being Work. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_Oldenburg

Andrew: The point of all of this is that higher education needs to understand how students learn, what motivates them, and where learning really happens. This is important because it feels that we build learning out – for example, how do commuting students engage with learning when they have unsuitable hangout space on campus (Katherine: or an unsuitable online space?) Instead we generally we gravitate towards the delivery of the curriculum as the space over which we have control as academics. Estates managers do not tend to understand teaching, never mind learning, so we need to start putting some of these ideas into words.  In reality learning happens where the learner is, and when they are ready. That is often not in the spaces to which we are paying attention.

2. The idea of in-between learning space is interesting but seem quite theoretical.  How might the concept be put to work in a real curriculum design? Are there any real world examples?

Andrew: It’s a good question because the temptation is to theorise it. Perhaps there’s enough theory. Personally, I need to apply these theories in the conversations I have with architects, teachers, students and others. I need to apply these theories also to understand learning through social media. If I understand such things I think I will be able to more easily critique ideas like open learning and media-enhanced learning and know their real value. From there we start to see impact on curriculum and co-curriculum design.

Katherine: I would point to the ‘Student as Consultants’ project I mentioned, see Enhancing teaching and learning through dialogue: a student and staff partnership model. Jensen, K. and Bennett, L. (2015). The International Journal of Academic Development, 21 (1). (In Press).

In terms of curriculum design, I guess it would be a question of acknowledging that building a community of learners (and here I mean staff and students) and social relationships are central to the learning process and then consider how this can be supported by putting structures in place that allow for this. I think there are many examples of this, and some came up in the webinar discussion, such as the field trip and other activities that involved coffee, conversation and less hierarchical interactions between staff and students (and between students).

3. Is it possible or desirable to try and capture what takes place in the in-between learning space for assessment purposes?

Andrew: I have a love-hate relationship with assessment. Ideally assessment is embodied in who we are as critical thinking learners. Therefore the idea of in-between spaces is found in ideas like authentic learning where the spaces we use connect with and represent the world that we aspire to inhabit socially and professionally.

Please feel free to leave comments and further questions on this page.

The TLC team

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About Rod Cullen

I am a Senior Lecturer in Learning and Teaching Technologies in the Learning Innovation Team at Manchester Metropolitan University. I have gained considerable experience over almost 20 years in design, delivery and evaluation of online learning, teaching and assessment. I am particularly interested in assessment and feedback practice as well as the emerging role of web conferencing technologies to support blended and distance learning.

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