The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) Foundation awards up to $100,000 annually for research through the Transform Grant. This year, a multidisciplinary team from the Center for Advanced Design Research and Evaluation, HKS, Inc., Dallas Independent School District, Herman Miller, and recently, USG, was awarded $30,000 to build a prototype sensory design lab that studies high school students’ responses to personalized learning spaces. Here’s a glimpse at why this research is important and how the team approached the research idea.
Question One – PERSONALIZATION: What is the importance of personalized learning spaces and how do you see this pilot study adding to the existing knowledge around it?
Over the past few years, the field of education has inched closer and closer to personalized learning – an approach to customizing educational pathways for students to best meet their needs, capitalize on their strengths, and respond to their interests and aspirations. Although great attention has been paid to the pedagogy of personalized learning, we haven’t yet explored how the physical space can enable or hinder this sort of instructional approach. We know space is an important variable that influences student achievement, but more work remains to understand the role of space in a dynamic and individualized learning environment. This pilot study will help educators, architects, and designers to grow in our understanding of how space can be best leveraged to maximize student outcomes in a personalized learning setting.
Question Two – PROTOTYPE: What are the benefits of a lab prototype? What data is captured from this?
Research is still in its infancy in the field of interior design. One of the biggest challenges is the ability to isolate a single variable for investigation. In this lab, our intent is to systematically vary one design variable (such as lighting, color, materials, views etc.) at a time, and assess the impact of that variable (while keeping all other parameters the same) on environmental and human outcomes. In this pilot phase we are focusing on changing a single variable – furniture configuration, and assessing the impact on multiple output variables that are human (self-reported learning and satisfaction, heartrate, and movement) and environmental (lighting, sound and air quality).
Our team also believes that having a design lab in a school site so high school students can engage with it can provide educators and designers with a tool to truly understand the impact of design prior to making some costly decisions within a real life context. High school students are on the threshold of life – getting ready for college, work, and family. Their input on this prototype will be critical not just for schools, but for spaces we design for them as they get out of school and step into real life.
Question Three – PARTNERSHIPS: How did this partnership formulate and what are some expected synergies?
The partnership between DISD and HKS started less than two years ago when HKS’s Design Fellowship offered to undertake the Personalized Learning campus projects as a case-study for their 2014 charrette. The four-day event culminated in the presentation of three design solutions for elementary, middle, and high school campuses and was very successful in exploring spatial solutions for the future of DISD’s Personalized Learning campuses, and began a collaboration process that has developed into the design of three renovation projects which will begin construction this summer. Via the ASID grant and HKS’s non-profit Center for Advanced Design Research and Evaluation, we are taking the conversation to the next level with systematic research. The prototype experiment will be bracketed with contextual, ethnographic explorations. We are lucky to have a partner in Herman Miller who is supporting this grant and providing furniture for testing. We also have additional partners like USG. In a seed project like this we are truly trying to create an industry collaboration with different manufacturers, designers, educators and users. We’d love to invite additional partners to the fray as we test out the concept of this portable design lab. If interested feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Upali Nanda, director of research for HKS, is responsible for spearheading and implementing research projects globally. She serves as the executive director for the non-profit Center for Advanced Design Research and Evaluation and is a member of the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture (ANFA) Advisory Council, the AIA Research Advisory, and the AAH research council. Dr. Nanda’s doctoral work on “Sensthetics” has been published as a book available on Amazon.com, and in 2015, she was recognized as one of the top 10 most influential people in Healthcare Design for research by the Healthcare Design Magazine.
Ashley Bryan serves as director of planning and special projects in the Dallas Independent School District and leads the effort to implement personalized learning district wide. Bryan manages the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Next Generation Systems Initiative grant that helps to catalyze the work. Previously, she was an associate at Commit!, the Dallas County collective impact organization supporting cradle-to-career collaboration where she focused on strategic initiatives across grades 4-12. Bryan graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in 2009 with dual degrees in the Plan II and Business Honors programs and from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2012 with a Master’s in Education in Education Policy and Management.