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Teaching and Learning Space

What is a Teaching and Learning Space?

For us, a teaching and learning space is more than just a physical location in a classroom or teaching lab. It is a conceptual space where learners and teachers come together. Each participant brings several elements to the space that TOGETHER determine what kinds of learning will take place.

The conceptual teaching and learning space provides a scaffold for thinking in a more organized way about teaching and learning processes. It helps us understand why and how different factors and activities affect learning outcomes, and how factors might interact with one another. It also serves as a basic logic model to support hypothesis generation and testing.

Major factors that affect learning outcomes are listed below. They are divided into teacher contributions, student contributions, and external factors. The first two groups have been sub-divided further, based loosely on Bloom and Krathwohl.

These are examples of factors that contribute to the conceptual teaching and learning space, not an exhaustive list. Some factors will contribute more than others to the success or failure of the space to accomplish the desired learning outcomes. Likewise, some factors may not be open to change by students or teachers.

What Teachers Bring to the Space

Mindset, Attitudes & Habits (Affective Domain, Metacognition)

  • Prior experiences
  • Views on learning process (constructed vs. transmitted)
  • Accepted thinking patterns, assumptions of the discipline
  • Evaluation philosophy

Content and Conceptual Knowledge (Cognitive Domain)

  • Disciplinary content knowledge
  • Pedagogical content knowledge
  • Conceptual map of their discipline
  • Instructional assets

Process Skills (Psychomotor Domain)

  • Instructional methods
  • Student interaction and coaching strategies
  • Assessment methods

What Students Bring to the Space

Mindset, Attitudes & Habits (Affective Domain, Metacognition)

  • Prior experiences
  • Self-perception
  • Views on their role in learning process (active vs. passive)
  • Motivation (internal vs. external), values, expectations
  • Level of engagement
  • Self-efficacy
  • Resilience

Content and Conceptual Knowledge (Cognitive Domain)

  • Prior knowledge
  • Misconceptions

Process Skills (Psychomotor Domain)

  • Differences in critical thinking and reasoning skills
  • Study skills and strategies
  • Self-assessment skills

External Factors That Contribute to the Space

  • Physical structure of class and lab spaces
  • Program, curriculum structure
  • Institutional policies and procedures
  • Social & cultural expectations and pre-conceptions, biases
  • Current events


Looking at teaching and learning in this way lets us make three important assumptions, each of which has implications for educational research and development.

  • Teaching and learning outcomes are the end results of measurable processes. This implies that both the inputs and outcomes can be evaluated in a rigorous way.
  • Factors do not act in isolation; each factor can affect others to different degrees. Thus, interventions designed to change the teaching and learning space can have different overall impacts, depending on the other factors present.
  • Teachers and students construct effective teaching and learning spaces together. Students need to be informed and held accountable if they are to be active partners. Teachers need to be clear in their expectations, attentive to student needs, and willing to adjust their methods accordingly.