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.

14593772_1182549991804922_895788366_n 14599666_1182550005138254_525362519_o


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

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.