The Ofted reports of 2005, 2007 and 2013 where the BAB grade went from inadequate to satisfactory to good reveals that the reason for the successful improvement is not the building alone but the changed pedagogy. In the 2005 report too many teachers were tolerant of poor punctuality and laid-back attitudes (low expectations). In the 2007 report this had changed, expectations had risen on the back of a good teacher coaching system. This is where teacher feedback and training is effective in changing pedagogy and improving standards (Hattie, 2015 ). By the 2013 report pedagogy had improved significantly through extensive use of social constructivist approaches and better feedback which Hattie (2015 ) says is a most effective way to improve learning. “Teachers should be coached in alternative ways of teaching that open space invites, should be coached in working with each other to teach together in these spaces, and should be coached on how to evaluate their impact when working in these different spaces.” (Hattie, 2015 , p17). This clearly shows the need for pedagogy over technology, whether that be physical or digital space. It is clear that the successes of BAB has been through training of staff to use the innovative learning spaces with good pedagogy rather than just relying on the space itself as a ‘silver bullet’. This had led to successful teaching and learning and significant improvement of student results in a relatively short period of time.
The message here is not to not bother with designing innovative learning spaces without building them with good pedagogical models in mind starting not with the question of ‘What buildings do we want?’ but rather ‘how do we want to see education in the future?’ The design of flexible spaces to cater for that (Harrison & Hutton, 2014) such as the inclusion of segmentarity like retreats and alcoves (Dovey & Fischer, 2014). Success of a school in terms of building learning spaces that work is not just a matter of picking the right educational philosophy, pedagogy, and spaces but rather unifying all of them together where the design is intentionally designed to support the chosen model for teaching and learning (Harrison & Hutton, 2014). The pedagogical success of BAB has been challenging with students taken in from difficult schools that included emotional & behavioural difficulties (OFSTED report, 2005) and this school is clearly enthusing the students where they have a problem getting them to go home in the evening (Spring, 2008). From its difficult beginning BAB has found success through integrated pedagogy and learning space after modification of both.
There are a number of key questions that require more investigation which include:
- What are the best methods and processes in order for interdisciplinary teams in designing educational spaces for learning to be successful?
- What impact does changing a learning space have on: i) teaching practice?; ii) Student learning?
Certainly stress effects the capacity for anyone to perform at their best and acoustic quality of a learning space has a direct correlation on the working pulse of the occupants and hence stress levels (Tiesler & Oberdorster, 2008). This has been successfully rectified in BAB but what is not clear is how much this change, over and above the pedagogical changes, has contributed to the improvement and increased success of this learning institution.
In the end what will contribute to better outcomes of all stakeholders in a learning space is for not only architects to use their ears (Treasure, 2012) but also educators and all members of interdisciplinary teams to use all the senses available to them to empathise, prototype, and ideate to generate processes and objects for the benefit of all.