Creative use of spaces in schools can boost performance


Transformative leadership and the creative use of spaces in schools can help improve learners’ performance, promote their emotional well-being, and keep them in school until matric. This is one of the core messages of a new book by Prof Aslam Fataar from the Department of Education Policy Studies at Stellenbosch University and Dr Johann Burger, District Manager for the Western Cape Education Department (WCED). Burger completed his doctoral studies in 2017.

The book, titled Skoolleierskap en die skep van produktiewe leerruimtes in skole, (School leadership and the creation of productive learning spaces in schools) shows how two principals of diverse schools – one in an urban working class area and the other in a rural middle class area – apply unique leadership and the use of specific spaces in schools to create excellent learning environments that inspire and motivate their learners and teachers to excel in what they do.

The authors mention that the principals created physical, emotional and social spaces by incorporating, among others, artworks, light, colour, sound, maps and diagrams in the learning environment.

“One school transformed a certain social space that consists of several seats under shady trees into emotional zones. There are between six and ten seats where the learners, away from the hustle and bustle of the playground, can sit in a fairly quiet space and chat and socialize with each other. One of the social projects that was launched was the establishment of a ‘restaurant’ for learners that could help prepare them emotionally and socially for the future.”

According to the authors, the book shows how limited resources and spaces in schools can be utilised to create learning environments that foster relationships between teachers and learners based on respect, compassion and educational dignity. Furthermore, it provides insight into the possibility of innovative and inspiring leadership in the creation of educational spaces.

The authors believe that newly created and productive learning spaces will have a positive influence on learners and say that this will inspire and excite them about going to school. They also point out that productive learning spaces in schools do not develop spontaneously.

It requires agency and leadership and believe their book can serve as a resource or route map for any student, educator, education district staff member or anyone else who is involved in the teaching and education of people and who strives for improved learning outcomes.

The authors and the two principals, in collaboration with the WCED, will be doing a series of school and education district-based training workshops where they will be focusing on the conceptual and practical school leadership dimensions related to creating healthy school learning environments.

Available online at Google Books, ITSI, Amazon and Takealot