Bodies and affect in non-traditional learning spaces

Amy McPherson and Sue Saltmarsh
Vol 37, Number 1, p.68
This paper considers the ‘knowledge economy’ as it is used in education rhetoric to establish social and educational consent for significant changes both to the spatial organisation of classrooms and their affective economies. We draw on ethnographic data from a study of ‘non-traditional classroom spaces’, where the spatial organisation of schooling emerged as a potential fulcrum through which the imaginary of the conventional primary classroom was being reconceptualised. Traditionally configured classroom spaces and the learning that takes place within them were being challenged and replaced by notions of twenty-first century learning in ‘agile’ learning environments. In the context of this reform agenda, these open-plan spaces were seen as offering new prospects for participation in a globally connected and competitive economic world that requires students to continuously adapt, innovate and respond creatively to a range of different problems. We consider how these everyday moments function as conceptual encounters between affective, embodied experiences and educational reform discourses that rationalise the implementation of non-traditional classroom spaces in ways that have very little to do with children and their futures. This cultural approach takes a step aside from numerous, and necessary, critiques of recent educational policies per se, in order to consider what might be learned from the uncanny spectres of child bodies that haunt them. The paper draws attention to examples of children’s affect in non-traditional classrooms and what that may tell us about current educational reform when sacrifice forms part of the missing account of educational reorganisation for the knowledge economy.