…but will the students be learning?
I taught for many years in a wide range of different environments. Even today I run staff development sessions for both Jisc and universities across the UK.
I use to say things like “I can teach anywhere”. What I meant by this, wasn’t that the environment or space I was using wasn’t important, but I could overcome the disadvantages of the different spaces I had to play with, and still deliver an effective session.
For example when I worked at the Ashley Down campus of the City of Bristol College, this was an old Victorian orphanage, which had really high ceilings. The acoustics were terrible, even after refurbishment, the ceilings were still really high. In these rooms I would often adjust my sessions to individual activities or group work. I would ensure that any instructions were provided in a written format as well as verbally. Of course back then in the 1990s we had none of this Powerpoint and projector nonsense, so printed stuff was the norm.
Of course being able to teach anywhere is not quite the same as being able to teach effectively anywhere. The environment can make a difference. When it comes to planning spaces for teaching, the impact of temperature, noise, lighting, acoustics, air quality and other factors can have a positive or negative impact on how students learn. Some of these may be marginal, but as we know from marginal gains analysis. The marginal gains theory is concerned with small incremental improvements in any process, which, when added together, make a significant improvement. The same can be said with incremental negative impacts can have a significant detriment.
So though I might be able to teach anywhere the reality is that all those challenges and issues I face in an inappropriate space, may well result in poor quality learning, despite the quality of my teaching.
I may not be able to mitigate all the issues, but where I know what they are (and their impact) then I can alter my teaching (or learning design) to either mitigate (or even take advantage of) that issue.
With the record temperatures that the UK is facing today (18th July 2022) university staff may be pleased that most of them are not teaching in this heat, but they might be in future years.
How do we, and how can we plan and mitigate for the impact of the environments in which we teach?