Innovative learning environments and new materialism: A conjunctural analysis of pedagogic spaces

Jennifer Charteris , Dianne Smardon & Emily Nelson
Vol 37, Number 1, p.41
An Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development research priority, innovative learning environments (ILEs) have been translated into policy and practice in 25 countries around the world. In Aotearoa/New Zealand, learning spaces are being reconceptualised in relation to this policy work by school leaders who are confronted by an impetus to lead pedagogic change. The article contributes a conjunctural analysis of the milieu around the redesign of these education facilities. Recognising that bodies and objects entwine in pedagogic spaces, we contribute a new materialism reading of ILEs as these are instantiated in New Zealand. New materialism recognises the agential nature of matter and questions the anthropocentric narrative that frames the postenlightenment conception of what it means to be human. The decentring of human subjects through a materialist ontology facilitates a consideration of the power of objects to affect the spatial politics of learning environments. The article traces a relationship between the New Zealand strategic plan for Education 2015–2021 and principal conceptions of ILE as the lived spaces of this policy actualisation and the disciplinary/ control society conjuncture. Informed by theories of spatial practice, we argue that principals’ understandings of ‘space’ are integral to pedagogic approaches within openplan spaces. A conjunctural analysis can expand the capacity to act politically. By examining the complex conditions of a political intervention, in this case ILEs, we trace the displacements and condensations of different sorts of contradictions, and thus open up possibilities for action.