Designing Learning Spaces (EDUC 303X)

This site hosts field notes and reflections from the Spring 2013 session of Education 303X: Designing Learning Spaces at the Stanford Graduate School of Education.  As a part of the course, we will be investigating a variety of educational spaces and interrogating the assumptions about learning, activity, and design that underlie their creation.

Meets: Tuesdays, Thursdays 1:15 – 3:05   •   Location varies.

Instructor:  Karin Forssell, Ph.D.
Director, Program in Learning, Design, and Technology, Graduate School of Education

Karin Forssell is Program Director for the Learning, Design, and Technology Master’s Program, and a Lecturer in the School of Education. She studies the choices people make in learning new technology applications, with a special focus on teachers and students using technology in schools. Some research questions of special interest include the impact of social networks in and out of school on technology use and interest development, the roles of colleagues in motivating and supporting teacher technology use, and the features of digital tools that make them useful in the classroom context. To stay connected to K-12 education, Karin also teaches Broadcast Media at a local middle school.

Course Assistant: Daniel Stringer

Ph.D. Candidate, Learning Sciences and Technology Design, Graduate School of Education

Daniel is passionate about working with community-based organizations, education reform, and technology design.  He is currently completing his PhD in the Learning Sciences and Technology Design program at Stanford University.  His research focuses how new technologies, particularly digital media, impact youth development and learning. In the past, Daniel has worked for organizations focused on social and educational policy, community development, and internet technology.


How does space shape personal interactions and afford learning opportunities?  In this course we will explore a variety of different attempts to design various spaces for learning, and what we know about what worked (or didn’t).  This course sets out to ask

  • How do spaces support the learning that takes place in them?

  • What principles can we derive for the design of learning spaces?  What are the challenges to implementing those designs?

  • How do we know if the design is effective?

We will explore many approaches to the design of formal and informal learning spaces. The course will culminate in a project that seeks to integrate learning principles into the design of spaces, and a rubric to assess the impact on learning.


This is a graduate-level course.  All students are expected to come prepared to class with original ideas, questions, and insights.

The course will feature discussions focused on readings and observations of learning spaces.  Each week, all students will read the required readings and be prepared to discuss.  Links to required readings are available on the syllabus.  Books are available on reserve in Cubberley Library. Optional readings can be provided for those who wish to learn more.

Participation is critical.  Tours of various learning spaces are a key experience in the course. Students are expected to speak and listen actively in class; build on the ideas of others; challenge their own thinking and that of others; and seek to make connections between concepts in class and to outside experiences. Students will be asked to think what they observe in a variety of settings, and to generate questions; “stupid” questions are encouraged. All students will be expected to be able to engage their classmates’ questions.

Each student will be required to take notes at least once as we tour a learning space.  Field notes are to be submitted as a blog post within 24 hours of the tour.

The course culminates with a project applying the ideas of this course to a real space.  The design will involve a series of smaller deliverables submitted as blog posts. Design proposals will be presented to the class and to potential stakeholders for feedback.

Each student will prepare a reflection synthesizing their insights about the design of spaces for learning. The reflection is due by 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, June 11.

Grading: Grades will be 30% Participation (including discussion, blog posts, and field notes), 40% Design Project, 30% Reflection paper.

In case of illness, we encourage students to stay at home. Information about how to participate remotely through web/phone will be provided when circumstances prevent your participating in person.

Sudents with documented disabilities: Students who may need an academic accommodation based on the impact of a disability must initiate the request with the Student Disability Resource Center (SDRC) located within the Office of Accessible Education (OAE). SDRC staff will evaluate the request with required documentation, recommend reasonable accommodations, and prepare an Accommodation Letter for faculty dated in the current quarter in which the request is being made. Students should contact the SDRC as soon as possible since timely notice is needed to coordinate accommodations. The OAE is located at 563 Salvatierra Walk (phone: 723-1066).

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