Title: Learning Behaviors and Learning Spaces (2011)
Author: Scott Bennett
Source: Libraries and the Academy
Research Question: How do campuses foster learning behaviors and learning spaces?
Study Design: What types of spaces drive learning behaviors? And how can a space impact and encourage collaborative thinking as well as independent study? In order to determine the best types of environments for education and research, three important questions must be asked:
- Which learning behaviors are important to student and faculty respondents?
- How well, in the view of student and faculty respondents, does the institution provide space that fosters learning behaviors that are important to them?
- Where are the spaces that foster learning behaviors that are important to student and classroom faculty respondents?
In this study, Scott Bennett posed these three questions at six institutions of higher education. Of the six institutions, three were liberal arts colleges, two were universities that offered professional programs and graduate instruction, and one university focused primarily on science and technology. This array included both independent and public institutions and had student/faculty populations ranging from 900 - 27,000. Each institution requested that all students and faculty respond to the author’s questions. Response rates for students and faculty were low across all schools, ranging from 2-14% for student and 5-58% for faculty. For questions one and three, multiple-choice answers were drawn from past surveys from the National Study of Student Engagement, with 2-3 choices created by the author.
Findings: When assessing the results of this study, it is important to keep in mind that the answers recorded do not represent each institution as a whole, but rather the select few respondents who participated in the surveys. Regarding question one (most important learning behaviors), the majority of students and faculty across the six institutions responded that studying alone was one of the most important learning behaviors. Faculty and students at only two out of the six institutions saw collaborative study as an important learning behavior and faculty respondents saw peer-to-peer learning behaviors as decidedly more important than students.
The second question (how well does the institution support learning spaces) produced varied results, especially between student and faculty respondents. Students at four out of six institutions believed that their campus supported studying alone, while faculty members at only two institutions believed their campus supported this learning behavior.
The last question (spaces that support learning) yielded interesting responses. Faculty and students at all six institutions agreed that libraries provided spaces that fostered learning behaviors important to them. Bennett goes on to say, "even more striking is the fact that no other campus space comes even close to the library in the frequency of affirmative student responses."
Moving Forward: This study provides useful information regarding faculty and staff learning preferences and behaviors. It is interesting to see the similarities and differences between student and faculty responses regarding preferred methods of learning, be it collaborative or independent, in the library or elsewhere. The relatively small scale of this study and low participation numbers make it difficult to draw comprehensive conclusions on majority preferences for learning spaces; however, the study does reinforce the notion that both faculty and students consider the library an integral part of an institution as a whole.
Image: Ohio State University by Learning Space Toolkit via Flickr