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Learning Environments

16 February 2024

Traditional classrooms are designed for one teacher with a class of students. According to the Ministry of Education Innovative Learning Environment (ILE) guidelines, learning spaces should accommodate several teachers and students in one large space. Find out about UC's research into learning environments.


The impetus for the current educational research was the move to remodel or rebuild schools (particularly following the Earthquakes in Christchurch) in accordance with New Zealand Ministry of Education Innovative Learning Environment (ILE) guidelines. Digitally enabled learning environments with the spatial affordances of innovative learning environments can provide the opportunity for the school environment to be a link to knowledges and understandings within the global world.

The potential of digital technologies to be co-constitutive in the implementation of future-focused learning is a key consideration in facilitating contextually relevant schooling. The traditional classroom is designed for one teacher with a class of students – typically between 20 to 30. In ILEs, the learning spaces aim to accommodate several teachers and a high number of students (100+) in one large space, frequently with some form of break-out areas. These learning environments are meant to be more flexible in their use and provide greater access to a range of online and other modern resources.

Such environments are meant to be more suited to 21st century pedagogies that aim to provide an empowering and challenging learning environment where students are actively participating and involved, self-regulated, while at the same time being connected to the community and relating to others. They also increase the need for teachers to work together and form communities that can support each other and develop mutual skills. Both the type of environment and the different teaching methods needed to work in such environments will have an influence on student learning.

Our current research at the University of Canterbury is looking at the possible effects on teaching and learning using a range of methods to assess the perspectives of school staff (teachers, principals, etc), student teachers (those who are in initial teacher education courses and will be the teachers of tomorrow), and learners (primary and secondary school levels).

Fletcher, J. and Everatt, J. (submitted). The redesign of schooling: What are Initial Teacher Education students in New Zealand perceptions about innovative learning environments New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies.

Fletcher J., Everatt J., Mackey J. and Fickel LH. (2020) Digital Technologies and Innovative Learning Environments in Schooling: A New Zealand Experience. New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies 2020(55): 91-112.

Everatt J. and Fletcher J. (2019) Children with learning difficulties and the move to Innovative Learning Environments. Asia Pacific Journal of Developmental Differences 6(1): 49-73.

Fickel L., Mackey J. and Fletcher J. (2019) The changing spaces in education in Aotearoa New Zealand. In Kamp A (Ed.), Education Studies in Aotearoa New Zealand: Key Disciplines and Emerging Directions. NZCER Press.

Everatt J., Fletcher J. and Fickel L. (2019) School leaders’ perceptions on reading, writing and mathematics in innovative learning environments. Education 3-13 47(8): 906-919.

Fletcher J. (2019) The architectural design of learning environments: What happens when teaching? International Journal for Cross-Disciplinary Subjects in Education (IJCDSE), 8(1).

Mackey J., O Reilly N., Jansen C. and Fletcher J. (2018) Leading change to co-teaching in primary schools: a “Down Under” experience. Educational Review 70(4): 465-485.

Fletcher J., Mackey J. and Fickel L. (2017) A New Zealand case study: What is happening to lead changes to effective co-teaching in flexible learning spaces? Journal of Educational Leadership, Policy and Practice 32(1): 70-83.

Mackey J., O'Reilly N., Fletcher J. and Jansen C. (2017) What do teachers and leaders have to say about co-teaching in flexible learning spaces? Journal of Educational Leadership, Policy and Practice 32(1): 97-110.

Yogeetha Bala Subramaniam, PhD started 2017: Teaching Asian-background EAL students in a flexible learning space versus a single cell traditional classroom

Yogeetha is a PhD candidate in the College of Education, University of Canterbury, New Zealand. She holds a Masters’ in Arts (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Language) from University of Nottingham and has lectured on the Bachelor of Education (TESOL) programme at Help University Malaysia. Her research focuses on teaching Asian students in Innovative Learning Environments, focusing on student perceptions and practices that would engage and motivate Asian students. (Supervisors John Everatt and Jo Fletcher)

Lynne Connor, EdD started 2020: Innovative learning in secondary schooling

Lynne is a doctoral student at the University of Canterbury. Her research is focussed on examining the factors influencing innovative teaching in secondary schools. She has fifteen years’ experience as secondary school English teacher and is currently a part-time lecturer in the School of Teacher Education at the University of Canterbury. (Supervisors Julie Mackey and Annelies Kamp)


Lynda Taylor, EdD started 2016:  Innovative Learning Environments: The connection between leadership practices, teaching and learning and school design.

Lynda is a doctoral student at the University of Canterbury.  The rationale for her study emanates from her experiences as a principal leading the transition from single cell traditional teaching to flexible and collaborative learning spaces.  It is a qualitative study exploring what it takes to make an innovative learning environment work in a primary school with a particular angle on the leadership processes undertaken.  (Supervisors Susan Lovett and Julie Mackey)


Leigh Hurford, EdD started 2017: Teachers transitioning into innovative learning environments: Theory into practice

Leigh is a doctoral student at the University of Canterbury. Her topic focuses on teachers’ experiences and insights gained from transitioning into innovative learning environments. A nationwide survey and individual interviews with teachers capture teachers’ accounts of what they deemed as positive, challenging and in need of improvement. (Supervisors Susan Lovett and Julie Mackey).

Details of our researchers, groups and interests

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