Initial Publication Date: September 24, 2020

Learning Spaces Working Group

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Mission Statement

Learning spaces in higher education include formal and informal spaces, such as buildings, open spaces on and off campus, online spaces, and other spaces in which teaching, learning, and engagement happens. This working group explores the design and use of learning spaces in higher education. In particular, the group focuses on equitable and inclusive access to learning spaces including physical and pedagogical access.

Knowledge Claims and Guiding Questions

  1. Organizations in higher education are structured in ways that promote boundaries. Boundaries are an important piece of Learning Spaces work, including evaluating, understanding, creating, changing, challenging, and working within and outside of those boundaries. Higher education should be a place to change boundaries and push boundaries, including your own.
  2. Traditional learning spaces were not purposefully designed to be inclusive. We now know how important these spaces can be in facilitating students' sense of belonging and inclusion.
  3. Learning spaces impact psychological and physical comfort, in turn, psychological and physical comfort impact students' sense of safety, efficacy, motivation, resilience, attitude, and tolerance for ambiguity.
  4. Spaces include formal spaces, informal spaces, buildings, open spaces, online spaces, physical spaces, psychological spaces, social spaces, and socio-cultural spaces.
  5. Permeability in learning spaces: people/inhabitants impact spaces and spaces impact people/inhabitants. Likewise, materials and tools have shared impact with/within spaces. (Other ways to say this: bidirectional, etc.)

Group Leaders

  • Jonathan Cox, University of Arizona (
  • Lara Appleby, Tufts University (

Group Members