Interview with David Spencer Classroom Architect

Online Interview with David Spencer Classroom Architect, Broadway Malyan, 29 September, 2016.

Topic: Designing classrooms with David Spencer 

This interview was so much fun and really interesting- REALLY interesting!  Collaboration and creativity were key factors throughout the interview.  A little bit of background to this hangout interview, I met David on Twitter, and saw his posts about designing innovative classroom environments, so between tweets I invited him to share his insight about the links between pedagogy and designing engaging learning environments for my blog and uni students- thankfully he said YES.

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These were the interview questions I asked David to prepare for:

What inspires your classroom design?

In an ideal classroom for the Arts what do you plan for?

How do your designs reflect Arts pedagogic practices?

What is ineffective classroom design in your opinion?

How does classroom design affect student behaviour?

David prepared a mindmap for the interview, if you’d like to view it, click here

There were lots of interesting issues raised throughout the interview, my top 3 are:

  1. Interdisciplinary collaboration between sciences and art students learning in the same building- this creates informed learners through collaboration due to shared spaces.  This shared space was between the classrooms, and functioned as ‘touch down’ points to sit, chat, share and collaborate over time.  Often we separate arts and science, but both David’s contention and my position is that arts and science/maths are connected as they involve the creative process of problem solving and iterative thinking.  There’s something which connect us to learn from each other in different ways.

2. Our discussion led me to reflect on my personal requirements as an artist, and strategies for student management during the creative process, and that was having the time and space to pause and just be on your own.  Autonomy is a really important part of creativity, and sometimes we just need space and quiet to reflect or just maintain/pause flow.

3.The notion of “comfort” is key to good classroom design- there were many approaches which David discussed around this, even for the humble teacher in a portable.

Here is the video, my voice and camera is terrible, I apologize, luckily I’m not on screen often; it will be sorted for the next interview.



Please connect with David on Twitter and click to share the tweet below

Interesting interview about classroom design with @spencerd50 and @IngridHLee1 #artsed #classroomdesign


Lastly, what did you think about this interview? Please share your feedback in the comments

If you would like to be interviewed, please contact me

6 thoughts on “Interview with David Spencer Classroom Architect”

  1. I’m so glad you touched on the difficulties of teaching in spaces that already exist and have been poorly designed such as the portable! I think a key to using them successfully is to be as dynamic with the space as you can be; move around, create zones, don’t be afraid to think outside the space and send students outside to work if the conditions suit!

    The best practise classrooms you talked about are very inspiring but unfortunately they aren’t the reality in most of the schools I’ve seen as a PST.

    1. Thanks for your comments Louise, yes it’s why I asked about the portables ))) In saying that though, while many schools are being overhauled, they are not doing this type of innovation with the money. New schools are being built in growing suburbs and have the money and potential to create some of these types of spaces- the school where my kids will go to secondary (Western burbs) has quite a few of the spaces David talks about, the school is 5 years old. I suppose it is about the vision of the school and clear pedagogic focus which is shared across the whole school and practiced explicitly.

      Outside work is a definite, and I used it in my practice in schools often, not just as a place to have the space to create in, but as an inspiring place to create from. How have you used outside spaces in art?

      Lastly, I think it is possible to create different spaces within your classrooms- I think I mentioned in the video about my first art room, I brought in a couch seater and bean bags and set up an library area of art books, with paper and pencils near by if students felt inspired to draw or express themselves in that space, away from others.

    2. Louise
      Thank you for your comments. It is such a shame to see some of the spaces that are used for learning and teaching in schools.
      The schools I went to as a child had some ‘temporary’ classrooms that where at least 40 years old when I was in them. Many have been replaced in the U.K. and they became much less common. However, there is currently a mini baby boom coming through the school system in the U.K. and temporary classrooms are more common again.
      Contemporary modular classrooms can be of high quality, but will all things you get what you pay for.
      I am encouraged by your engagement with the space you have to teach and learn in, thinking about how you and your student use a space is a good first step to using it well. Not acknowledging that you are in a space that has shortcomings is not a way to get the most from it.
      As architects a lot of the projects we work on start with existing learning spaces that are far from ideal, through the project we try to find the optimum design for the students, teachers and the (usually distant) client.
      I hope that you get the chance to shape a building project, I would like to work with you as you are thinking about your spaces and how they impact learning and teaching.

  2. The focus on content vs engagement is a real downfall for a lot of the way we engage students in learning. I couldn’t watch all of this, but thoroughly enjoyed these perspective and someone else’s insight. I love how his life experience inspires and pushes his work. Thanks for doing this and sharing!

    1. Thanks G 🙂 Really appreciate your feedback. Agreed, content vs engagement is a problem, and it also is reflected in how we use our learning spaces. I love the idea of horseshoe shape tables! I’ve not seen them in schools here, but it would be interesting to set up school desks in a room and see how it works.

    2. Thanks g.
      I was surprised how long we ended up talking. The conversation went in unexpected directions and we explored well. That said I have not had time to re-listen to the whole conversation. But I will share bits that helped me move on in my thinking.
      I find expanding my experience of education and learning informs my work. I think this is the same for teachers, both continue to be re-inspired through our careers – if all goes well.
      Thank you for listening and responding

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