A Critical Review of Post 2012 Scholarly Literature on the Evidence-Based Design and Evaluation of New Generation Active Learning Environments

In: The Translational Design of Universities


Since 2008 – following the Global Financial Crisis – significant funds have been invested in university facilities particularly in Australia. Some of these funds were allocated to teaching and learning spaces and this trend has continued unabated to the time of writing of this article. Increased funding is also being initiated overseas with many of the learning spaces being designed around a next generation learning environment (NGLE) concept, otherwise known as technology enabled active learning (TEAL) environments. Whilst some evaluation of these developments has occurred over the same period it is only since 2011 that any rigorous scholarly studies have begun to emerge, and these are very small in number. Yet significant capital investment in NGLE’s continues unabated, and the instigators of these spatial developments still do not know if they actually work. Current debates which are creating tension are holistic definitions of learning environments and what counts as legitimate evidence of effectiveness. This paper reviews evaluation developments since 2011, following a previous article (Fisher & Newton, 2014), which reviewed studies prior to 2011. Five scholarly peer reviewed studies have been examined in relation to the current debates. On the basis of the review, a more holistic approach to evaluation of learning environments is suggested through the use of observational and experiential data with a view to providing an evidence-based approach to inform the burgeoning capital investments required to re-engineer the vast amounts of existing and now very much obsolete university estates learning environments assets.


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