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

Jennifer Charteris, Dianne Smardon, Emily Nelson
  • Educational Philosophy and Theory, March 2017, Taylor & Francis
  • DOI: 10.1080/00131857.2017.1298035

Innovative Learning Environments and new materialism

What is it about?

In this article, we firstly introduce key ideas related to ILEs and their purpose. We then introduce the notion of conjunctures and argue that ILEs are an example of a conjectural shift between disciplinary control and modulatory control societies. This move problematises ILEs in termsof their political effects locating them as a political instantiation within broader globalisation moves. We then outline a new materialist ontology that we argue disrupts binaries created by the idea of a shift between modernist (disciplinary) and ILEs (modulatory) enabling us to focus instead on the entangled relationalities produced in ILEs. We move between these theoretical ideas to analyse the perceptions of principals we interviewed to learn more about their responses to ILEs in terms of enacting these within their school contexts and re-imagining pedagogic spaces.

Why is it important?

The deterritorialised classrooms of ILEs require new territorial relations. Ownership of individual territory is reframed through physical assemblages of resources, bodies and spatial demands. The primacy of the teacher body is decentred and displaced in a process of massification—of not only classrooms, but schools globally, in service to twenty-first century workplace agendas. Although policy-makers, architects, designers, school leaders, teachers and, in some cases, students create spatial designs, the dynamism of these spaces are coproduced though the complex affective flows of human bodies, acoustics, airflow, textures, lighting, furniture and non-human creatures. In the conjuncture, the control society overlays systems to intensify some aspects of disciplinary control. As pedagogic assemblages, the material cartographies of classrooms reflect a shift to the influence of the control society.


Dr Jennifer Charteris
University of New England

The paper offers a critical analysis of the politics of innovative learning environments. There is a ‘control/freedom’ dilemma that irrupts in the form of managing state control mechanisms in policies around assessment, curriculum and the property resourcing of specific types of buildings. Deprivatisation moves involve intensified performativity expectations. Therefore, deprivatisation is a challenging aspect of this conjuncture for school leaders and teachers who have been seen as successful in their respective fields to date in more traditional arrangements.

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The following have contributed to this page: Dr Jennifer Charteris