An Interview with Jill Blackmore on space, learning, feminism and the politics of education

Professor Jill Blackmore discusses learning spaces, teachers’ work, feminism and the complexity of education.


Jill Blackmore is Professor of Education and former Director of the Centre for Research in Educational Futures and Innovation at Deakin University, Victoria, Australia.

She has published widely in education and sociology with a longstanding interest in issues of equity, feminism, teachers’ work and classroom practice. Recently she has led teams studying school learning environments leading to an extremely useful literature review, Research into the connection between built learning spaces and student outcomes (PDF, 3MB) as well as the Innovative Learning Environments Research Study (PDF, 1MB) (See also Jill also advises the OECD on their Learning Environments Evaluation Programme.

This interview crosses a lot of ground – from her recent work exploring teachers’ use of space to her own teaching Continue reading “An Interview with Jill Blackmore on space, learning, feminism and the politics of education”

The Changing Vocabulary of Education and its Spaces

A post exploring changes in the words used to talk about education e.g. the shift from “classroom” to “learning space”.

Over time we change the words we use to refer to things – in education just as elsewhere. One way to see how vocabulary shifts, is Google’s Ngram Viewer.

Ngram Viewer shows the percentage share a particular word or phrase gets of all words or phrases published in a particular year in books that are part of Google’s corpus or library of scanned books, 1500-2008. Looking over a number of years, you can get a sense of that word’s relative performance – whether it becomes more or less popular (in written, published, Google-scanned texts that is).

If two or more terms are close enough in frequency, they can be mapped on the same graph, for example ‘education’ vs ‘learning’:

An image from Ngram Viewer showing relative trends in the words 'education' and 'learning' between 1800 and 2008

Link to this chart in Ngram Viewer

‘Education’ and ‘learning’ are very different kinds of words but Continue reading “The Changing Vocabulary of Education and its Spaces”

Italy’s ‘Competition of Ideas’ for a New School-Building Programme

Italy’s “Competition of Ideas” for Innovative Schools could stimulate architectural & educational debate.

In early February 2016, the Italian government’s Ministry of Education, Universities and Research published some of the details of a ‘Competition of ideas for the realisation of innovative schools’ [pdf, 2.5MB]. It’s open to any professionally recognised architect or engineer in the EU.

I’ve translated Article 2 of the decree law (below) that sets up the competition because it’s pretty interesting for a number of reasons: Continue reading “Italy’s ‘Competition of Ideas’ for a New School-Building Programme”

Making Spaces, Forgetting Politics

Walls* are breaks (Vesely, 2013). They break into established categories of meaning and space and make new ones. They do that publicly too, so we could also say that walls have a communicative function to orient attention and shout about what it is they’re doing.

And a school’s walls are especially powerful since they break into space in so many ways. They start by making school school and differentiating it from the outside Continue reading “Making Spaces, Forgetting Politics”

What are schools for? An interview with Gert Biesta on the learnification of school buildings and education.

Gert Biesta on school architecture and democracy, and learnification – a reductive reappraisal of education as learning.

Gert Biesta’s work recalls our attention to the purpose of education – before asking whether something “works” educationally, he’s interested in what we mean by education, what is it for, who is it for? He’s a Professor at Brunel University in London and at the ArtEZ Institute of Arts in the Netherlands and a member of the Steering Committee for the Design Matters project. After giving a talk to research students in the Faculty of Education at Manchester Metropolitan University, he kindly agreed to answer a few questions on how we talk and think about school buildings.

The full transcript’s below or there’s an easier-to-print pdf here. In summary though, we discussed the changing vocabulary whereby classrooms become learning spaces and how this relates to what he wryly terms “learnification”. Continue reading “What are schools for? An interview with Gert Biesta on the learnification of school buildings and education.”

Interview with Ji Yu (Summer)

Ji Yu, who likes to be known as Summer at the University of Cambridge where she is a doctoral student in Education, is investigating the impact of learning spaces upon student learning in higher education.  She is exploring this topic with a comparative (mixed methods) case study in China.   Summer grew up in Zixi, a town in Jiangxi Province, China.  Her undergraduate degree in Beijing was in civil engineering in and her Masters studies in Shanghai centred on a comparative study of learning spaces in Chinese primary schools with several Scottish primary schools.  I spoke with Summer on 11th May 2015 in  a central London cafe, just before she flew back to China to continue her research in the field.

Tell me about the first school you went to when you were a child.  What did it look like and feel like to you? 

Well, the first school I attended was the kindergarten but I couldn’t really remember it, so I think …. the one I remember is my primary school and it is very Chinese and a very traditional one. Continue reading “Interview with Ji Yu (Summer)”