The ‘why’ and ‘how’ of flexible learning spaces: A complex adaptive systems analysis



Publication Details

Kariippanon, K. E., Cliff, D. P., Okely, A. D. & Parrish, A. (2019). The ‘why’ and ‘how’ of flexible learning spaces: A complex adaptive systems analysis. Journal of Educational Change,


© 2019, Springer Nature B.V. This article presents the perceptions and experiences of 12 school principals, 35 teachers and 85 students on the influences and processes used by eight Australian government primary and secondary schools to transform traditionally arranged classrooms into flexible learning spaces. Characterised by a variety of furniture and layout options, these spaces are designed to enable a range of learning styles and activities and facilitate student-centred pedagogy. These changes to school learning environments are discussed in light of some central constructs of complexity theory, including inertial momentum, emergence, agent interaction, information flow, feedback loops and lock-in. The findings highlight the role of consultation, participation and ownership as central elements of sustainable change processes. Further effective design and transformation of learning environments requires a reflexive school community, pedagogical shift, professional development, and ongoing support to teachers and students. The discussion emphasizes the sociomaterial interplay between the pedagogical and physical classroom environment.

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