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

Workshop with Mick Healy

Workshop with Mick Healy (HE Consultant and Researcher), 15 August, VU Melbourne

Topic: Developing partnerships between students, staff and employers through the curriculum

I really enjoyed this workshop, especially the links I was starting to make to my research about collaborative practices.  Mick was a really informative presenter, and the practical activities really enabled us to connect with people outside of our discipline areas…share stories with sessionals from other disciplines at VU!

Used with permission from Mick Healy, this figure summarises his ideas about engagement through partnership.



Some things I found interesting or want to think more about:

  • It’s important to involve students in research- the scholarship of teaching and learning not just to be researched as a participant.
  • Students are change agents, they are partners in decision making which is more than just having a student voice.
  • In partnership everyone has value and ideas and expertise- students know what it is to be a student!
  • Students should be involved in research and planning.
  • Explicit linking of teaching and research into curriculum.


  • MY FAVOURITE>> Research and Inquiry is not just for those who choose to pursue an academic career, it’s about developing different types of skills to be a professional.

I wonder about how this connects with our students and their contribution to creating curriculum at university?  I think their input into blended learning is valuable.  I have experienced studying blended learning samples at uni myself- some are well done, others are not quite getting the different ways we can learn and make time for learning now through technology.

It would be interesting to have a year long pedagogy subject, where Semester 2 was a collaboration of curriculum design with students, assessment is competency based and not reliant on essays!  Something to think about.

Publications by Mick Healy to check

Is it good teaching? Positioning your practice activity

Is it good teaching? Positioning your practice activity

One of my favourite activities called “Is It?”  I’ve used this activity with all age groups, Prep- Adult and is a great introductory lesson to a new topic after you have provided some initial content.  It allows you to see how the thinking and comprehension is developing as a whole group.  Often I use this activity at the beginning of a unit, and then again midway, to see the development and processes of thinking around how the content is being understood and applied- of course being applied to a bigger picture question.

Presently, I have applied this activity to both my Critical Theory and Pedagogy class (Secondary) and my Art Pedagogy class (Secondary) this semester to achieve the main outcomes of:

  1. Positioning conceptual awareness of a group
  2. Introduction to discursive practice (I was new to working with these students)
  3. Applying critical thinking skills individually, small group and as a whole group
  4. My ability to assess informally where the group’s understandings, experiences and analysis skills are at, before I teach the rest of the course.

While my pedagogic practice is often situated in developing collaboration through substantive discourses, from experience I know it takes time to establish and develop a value for the participants, and is greatly based on the skills of the group.  This was my first semester working with this group of 3rd Year Pre-Service Teachers (PSTs).  It was important for me to get an understanding of the group, and for them to understand how I work, and my values on teaching and learning.  I firmly believe if we want our PSTs to practice collaboration, critical thinking or higher levels of thinking and discussion, then we need to model it by doing.  Clearly, my approach is to provide opportunities for PSTs to unpack big picture ideas around pedagogy and their understandings in relation to what they experience in school practice, so they can start to formulate where their own philosophies are aligned- and this takes practice.  One of the major assignments toward the end of semster will be to present their philosophy statement as a teacher and develop a Praxis of Inquiry.  So for me, this is the first stepping stone, a constructivist approach, to developing a position around articulating good practice.

Activity IS IT?

Simply, this activity is structured around a concept or discussion point.  So my examples were:

  1. Is this good teaching? (Critical Theory)
  2. Is it Creativity? (Arts Pedagogy subject)

For both concepts, students formed small groups and were presented with a few sentences from education theorists who describe a variety of education qualities and practice.  Students were required to unpack the statement in their small group, and decide where they would place their statement along a continuum of “Is it?” to “Is not?” which was on the board.  Then, a member of their group would explain and justify their reasoning for its positioning to the whole class.

You can see in the image below, that we used qualifiers of: “Is good teaching practice” “Average Practice” “Is not good teaching practice” for describing the continuum.  As the groups presented their statements and filled the continuum, they started to demonstrate skills of:

  • building bigger picture awareness of the concepts around education practice and values
  • comparing and contrasting ideas with others
  • building upon ideas within the whole group
  • being flexible to move positions of thought.



How did I assess the learning of this group?

As part of my experience as a consultant/facilitator and classroom practitioner for developing Philosophy or Socratic dialogue in school, there are key learning outcomes that indicate learning is occurring, regardless of age group.  In particular I was listening to each small group build on ideas and justify their reasoning based on each of their personal experiences.  My role then was to facilitate the larger thinking of the class with prompts, modelling the language to connect ideas and linking thoughts- this was not explicit as an expectation, but it helps students to get in the flow of substantive discourse.

While this was a preliminary exercise and I didn’t have the opportunity to teach for explicit discursive conventions due to the course unit having a prescribed curriculum, I still applied my own pedagogic approach to learning the content in general.  In particular I wanted to see what the PSTs know and don’t know about meta-language around education theory and practice and the nature of collaborative discourse.

Specifically I was looking for key phrases which would be similar to: I think, I believe, one idea I have about that is…, I agree however, Maybe this idea could go here…and so on.

I look forward to seeing how their thinking develops in our next discourse session later in the semester, and whether these activities affect their thinking for their assessment.

Have you tried this activity before, what alternatives do you have for this, please share.

Seminar with Dr Christine Winter, VU Melbourne

Visiting Scholar Seminar Dr Christine Winter 18 April, from the University of Sheffield, UK.

Venue: Victoria University, FTS PK Campus

Topic: National Curriculum Policy Reform in England and Australia: Implications for Students, Teachers and Social Justice?


I really enjoyed Christine Winter’s seminar, it was my first foot back into academia after 15 years, and I wanted to start getting my headpsace back into academic education and inform my thinking for my upcoming PhD coursework.  After the seminar, my head starting buzzing with new ideas and those feelings of ‘I’m an agent of change’ starting flooding back.  I’m really glad I’ve decided to come back to study at this time; I’m ready for it and focused.

Interesting sections to think about

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As I’m starting to think around my research question at this time and how school curriculum policy and reform affect Higher education- particularly as a comparative UK and Australia study (I know, I know, I’m going big, but it’s just how I think, it’ll be refined in due course), I made note of the following points or questions which pertained to me and my research:

  • Content overload and question the political influences of priorities
  • Look at the ACARA site, highlighting Federal approaches to standardised curriculum, State based teacher CPD and assessment
  • Standardised prescribed content with state based vernacularisation- is there a difference?
  • What are the links between NAPLAN, School Priorities and Higher education values?
  • Interesting perception that students are seen as data in the UK- learning is assessment and performance driven, and not inclusive of the passion for study or personal interests regardless of scores.
  • What are the assumptions we make of whose knowledge is of most worth?
  • What are the structural inequalities of education? Derrida and Levinas (see references below)

Main questions I’m thinking about after attending this seminar which will help open my research topic:

  • How do student teachers have the skills to be flexible and develop creative thinking- what are we teaching them at uni or modelling to them to be flexible and cope with change?
  • How do universities hear the needs of preservice teachers?  Apart form feedback surveys.
  • What are the assumptions we make of whose knowledge is of most worth?
  • It seems the questions are still focused around schools/teacher/policy. I want to know how engagement of curriculum policy links to critical education research, and how does it affect university curriculum?

References to note:
Derrida, Jacques (1992). Force of Law: The ‘Mystical Foundation of Authority’. In ed. Drucilla Cornell, Michael Rosenfield and David G. Carlson. In Drucilla Cornell, Michel Rosenfeld & David Carlson (eds.).

Lévinas, Emmanuel. Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Duquesne University Press, 1969.

Lingard, Bob and McGregor, Glenda (2014) Two contrasting Australian Curriculum responses to globalisation: What students should learn or become. Curriculum Journal, 25 1: 90110. doi:10.1080/09585176.2013.872048