UKEdMag: Designing Different Spaces

From the July 2017 edition of UKEdChat Magazine


Walk into any classroom, and you’ll look around and think ‘Ooh, that’s a good idea’, or ‘I don’t think I’d have done it like that’, or ‘OMG, what were they thinking!’

We all see the world through our own unique perspective, and no two teachers will create a classroom display board in exactly the same way. Our own life experiences, preferences and motivations will conclude in creating a unique work-of-art which will inspire or enervate.

It’s one of the reasons why teachers can be so critical when undertaking observations – no two teachers are the same, and pedagogical approaches can be extensively opposed.

This article originally appeared in the July 2017 edition of the UKEdChat Magazine – Click here to subscribe to receive a printed copy each month

Furthermore, recent research published has shown how artists and architects think differently compared to other people. Teachers are no different, and can also conceive of spaces in different ways from other people and from each other. Generally speaking, for example, notice how differently a drama teacher is compared to a mathematics teacher in terms of approach to teaching, the layout of their classroom, and even the decoration of the classroom. How about art teachers compared to history teachers, or design teachers compared to language teachers?

The research, published by University College London and conducted by Bangor University, showed that painters are more likely to describe depicted spaces as a two-dimensional image, while architects were more likely to focus on paths and the boundaries of the space. The participants were presented with a Google Street View image, a painting of St. Peter’s Basilica, and a computer-generated surreal scene. They had to describe the environment, explain how they would explore the space, and suggest changes to the environment in the image.

The painters tended to shift between describing the scene as a 3D space or as a 2D image. Architects were more likely to describe barriers and boundaries of the space, and used more dynamic terms, while sculptors’ responses were between the two. Painters and architects also differed in how they described the furthest point of the space, as painters called it the ‘back’ and architects called it the ‘end.’ The control participants gave less elaborate responses, which the authors say went beyond just a lack of expert terminology.

“Our study has provided evidence that your career may well change the way you think. There’s already extensive research into how culture changes cognition, but here we’ve found that even within the same culture, people of different professions differ in how they appreciate the world,” said Dr Spiers.

“Our findings also raise the possibility that people who are already inclined to see the world as a 2D image, or who focus on the borders of a space, may be more inclined to pursue painting or architecture,” he said.

Within the world of education, this all resonates with teaching, but also in consideration to our pupils. Let’s explore these separately:


When teachers are within the observation, or evaluation process, comments about your teaching or your classroom can feel personal – negatively, they can feel like a personal attack. Mostly, but not exclusively, they’re not. It’s just they are likely to be judging your performance from their experiences and viewpoint. They may be a painter, and you are an architect. Unless you are messing up a process entirely, the observation should be offering you a differing perspective. Therefore the tip is to embrace and feedback and view from a different perspective, as your students all have different viewpoints so this should offer you an insight.


Pupils also come into the classroom with a mix of experiences, and you will be confronted with individuals whose skills will offer them a mix of opportunities in the future. Indeed, you may be teaching future architects and painters in the same lesson. This is not the place to argue about learning styles, but how your students receive your teaching may not be as you intended in your plans. Pupils bring the baggage from their lives and experiences and will try to relate your teaching to their lives. Pedagogically, teachers need to ensure that learning opportunities suit everyone in the classroom. Easier said than done.

Fundamentally, what this research highlight, in terms of school and education generally, is that one-size does not fit all. Strands of a curriculum will suit one person, and be totally inappropriate for another. For teachers, one style of teaching may enchant one group of pupils, whereas the others are totally uninspired by what you are trying to achieve. It’s not personal – it just highlights the unique differences between us all, and we should all try to take a viewpoint away from our own every now and then – it’s an important lesson for us all.


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About @digicoled 437 Articles
Colin Hill - Founder, researcher and editor of ukedchat. Also a bit of a tech geek! Project management, design thinking, and metacognition.

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