Strengthening interaction and belonging through student-centred redesign of transitional spaces, StudentShapers
Research into belonging evidences that a comfortable, friendly and inclusive environment that affords a range of interaction between users is important for cultivating community. To respond to this, work is being carried out by two teams, each consisting of undergraduate students, departmental academics and a CHERS PhD researcher to redesign two transitional spaces. These spaces were identified as having transitional potential and by virtue of their location connect different year groups, courses and departments.
In addition to improving the functionality and accessibility of these spaces for group interaction and discussion between users, two ongoing projects, one in Mathematics/Computing and the other in Physics, is placing students at the heart of understanding how spaces can increase a sense of individual, departmental and institutional belonging, for example exploring how use of wall space and aesthetic can achieve this. The student shapers are using a series of methods to consult their departmental student body, including surveys, remote software tools where users can submit and upvote redesigned floorplans and later in-depth focus groups with students and interviews with academic staff to finalise design generation.
This approach to transitional space redesign is producing spaces that are more aligned with the needs and wants of the user and is empowering student shapers and their peers to take greater ownership of departmental spaces. This active participation in shaping the learning environment seems beneficial for active learning and sense of belonging.