Classroom biographies: Teaching and learning in evolving material landscapes (c. 1960-2015)

Despite growing interest in redesigning the material landscape of education, relatively little is known about the impact of these evolving classrooms. The current study aimed to gain insight into the physical learning environment and the potential pedagogical impacts thereof. A ‘biographical approach’ (c.1963-2015), was used to explore the long-term socio-material landscapes where teachers and pupils, classroom materiality and spatiality, and teaching practices are entangled. Stimulated recall interviews were conducted in Flanders (Belgium) with primary school teachers. Teacher-generated floorplans detailing their material classroom over time, transcribed oral accounts elaborating on these, and supportive data sources were aggregated and thematically analysed. The resulting identification of six key themes shed light on the evolving architectural and infrastructural developments, as well as triggers and teaching impacts thereof amongst the interviewed teachers. Findings show that negative school evaluations urging school intervention, and teachers’ proactive engagement within their classrooms, were the main catalysts of change. Moreover, evolving classroom layouts, in addition to the affordances of upgraded equipment, can be associated to changes in teachers’ practices. It can be concluded that the classroom is becoming an action context as the result of the inextricable mediating agencies identified.

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