Annotated Bibliography – The Visual Rhetoric of Learning Space Design

By: Lindsey Albracht

I’m using this annotated bibliography assignment as a way to prepare for a seminar paper that I’m writing about the spaces in which writing instruction takes place in the CUNY senior college system (focusing especially on first-year composition classrooms). So far, the following questions are guiding my research:

  • If we acknowledge David Batchelor’s theory that color, in the West is often “relegated to the realm of the superficial, the supplementary, the inessential or the cosmetic,” or that it is “made out to be the property of some ‘foreign’ body — usually the feminine, the oriental, the primitive, the infantile, the vulgar, the queer or the pathological,” what might the use of color in certain spaces and the absence of color in others communicate? (Batchelor 22). Specifically, in what ways and to what effect do classrooms evacuate or utilize color in their design? In what kinds of spaces can we see color, and in what kinds of spaces is it absent? How is color institutionally encouraged or denied? If considerations surrounding the history and racialized origins of Western color theory are brought to bear on previous research about the effect of space color on student academic performance or the measurement of the affective response to color, how might these conversations impact or more broadly contextualize this research?
  • Furthermore, in what ways and to what effect do classrooms evacuate or acknowledge the (dis/abled) body in their design? Beyond meeting ADA compliance, are there ways that a classroom can or should be structured or re-structured to meet the physiological and pedagogical needs and demands of embodied writing students? In what ways does Industrial Revolution-era design continue to impact classrooms spaces? Again, what is the institution’s or market’s role in perpetuating or maintaining pedagogically outdated design? In what ways do environmental scales (such as the ECERS, the Danielson Rubric, or the EDUCAUSE Learning Space Rating System) reflect anxieties about the appearance of sexuality in post-early childhood classrooms? Might the writing process and theories of writing studies / queer theory inform, impact, or queer classroom design?

Bemer, Amanda Metz, Ryan M. Moeller, and Cheryl E. Ball. “Designing Collaborative   Learning Spaces.” Programmatic Perspectives, 1(2), September 2009: 139–166.

This article tracks the changes made in the physical and material environment of a computer lab on the Utah State University campus over a span of 15 years. The authors begin with a brief literature review of discussions concerning classroom furniture configurations and briefly outline the affordances and constraints of typical models of computer classroom design (rows, rows + “peninsulas,” pods, and and a circle around the exterior of the room). By analyzing the various changes, the authors concluded that there were three factors that increased success in collaboration: formality, presence, and confidentiality. They used these concepts to design a new, laptop-based computer lab on campus that attempted to maximize student control over their formality and confidentiality while increasing the sense of presence and, therefore, they successfully increase student collaboration and autonomy in the space.

Brown, Michael, Joseph Cevetello, Shirley Dugdale, Richard Holeton, and Carole Meyers.   “Learning Space Rating System.” EDUCAUSE. 1 Sept. 2014. Web. 3 Nov. 2014.

This is a document that EDUCAUSE released this fall which was co-authored by a researcher   for EDUCAUSE, professors from three universities, and the CEOs of industrial designers from   two firms that specialize in educational space design. It’s a rating system for educational space in higher education, and it is designed to assess the space’s potential for pedagogical alignment, environmental quality, integration of technology, durability and other relevant factors. I’d like to put this primary source into conversation with another scale that is commonly used in New York State to assess early childhood education space (which is called the ECERS scale) to investigate what kinds of rhetorical arguments that both documents are making about the learners who will inhabit the spaces that the scales are designed to assess. I’m especially interested in the points of intersection and divergence in these scales, and how the potential learning goals are framed in each case.

Carton, Francis. “Ethnographie Comparée De La Salle De Classe en France et en Grande-Bretagne.” Mélanges Pédagogiques 23 (1997): 11-26. Print.

Francis Carton, a professor at centre de recherches et d’applications pédagogiques en langues at Université de Nancy 2, wrote an ethnography describing the experiences of British and French assistants working in foreign schools. For my project, the most compelling portion of the ethnography focused on the teachers’ perceptions of their respective foreign schools’ use of classroom space. British classrooms tended to be located in old, outmoded basements more often than French classrooms; they were more often used as multi-purpose spaces; and they had, on average, fewer cafeterias and nurses offices than French schools. However, British classrooms tended to be more “open” — teachers kept the doors open, students passed outside between classes, students were freer to move around the classroom, etc., while French schools tended to be more “closed” — individual instructors closed their classroom doors, and the students spent a majority of their day inside the building rather than passing from class to class from an outside thoroughfare. Carton concluded that this contributed to an environment (or was, perhaps, reflective of an environment) in which French teachers had more personal autonomy and authority and the goal of an education was for students to become socialized into a system rather than to become (more) curious and autonomous.

Derouet-Besson, Marie-Claude. “Architecture et éducation: convergences et divergences des conjonctures politique et scientifique.” Revue Français de Pèdagogie 115 (1996): 99-119.

In this article, Marie-Claude Derouet-Besson, a French author and researcher at the INRP (Institut National de Recherche Pédagogique) wrote this brief history of the (dis)connection between the planning of architectural and interior space and contemporary pedagogical practice in France. She argues that a confluence of factors caused the split between architectural thinking and educational praxis. First, because the effect of space on student performance cannot be easily separated from the effect of pedagogy itself and a variety of other factors, it therefore cannot be neatly and scientifically quantified, which leaves it a difficult area to study. Derouet-Besson also blames economic factors, such as the sudden and pronounced need in the 1960s to build schools quickly (and cheaply) in order to accommodate students who arrived in France as the result of a new wave of immigration. During the 1970s and 1980s, as a result of the work of thinkers such as Foucault and Piaget, and because of developments within the field of developmental psychology, there was a renewed interest in the way that physical environment shaped pedagogy.

Leander, Kevin and Gail Boldt. “Rereading ‘A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies’: Bodies, Texts, and Emergence.” Journal of Literacy Research 45.1 (2013): 22-46.

Kevin Leander, a professor at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College, and Gail Boldt, a professor in the school of education at Pennsylvania State University, explore a canonical literacy education text from the 1990s (‘A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies’) and use observations of a 10-year-old boy’s manga reading practices to critique the text’s lack of focus on the way that the body mediates and facilitates literacy practices. Using Deluze and Guattrai’s theory of rhizomic analysis (which is a framework that attempts to dissolve constructed boundaries between seemingly unrelated things — like reading and use of the body), Leander and Boldt argue that pedagogies of literacy must be expanded to consider the way that affect and the body help to constitute meaning-making since, currently, using the body to read (for example, by acting out a scene) is often seen as a “distraction” from the task at hand rather than another way of knowing and comprehending it. Although this text primarily focuses on reading and not production of text, I think that Leander and Boldt’s use of Deluze and Guattrai’s framework to promote embodied pedagogy and learning is a compelling move that could inform my project.

Lipsitz, George. How Racism Takes Place. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2011. Print.

As a professor of American Studies in the Black Studies department at the University of California, Santa Barbara, George Lipsitz studies social movements and identities, race and culture, and inequality (particularly in urban environments). In the first chapter of his book, Lipsitz argues that a phenomenon he identifies as “the white spatial imaginary” organizes much of the logic of North American public and private space and contributes to the phenomenon of misdirecting attention away from the link between “urban place and race” to make post-Civil Rights urban racial segregation seem like a natural consequence of choice (13). Lipsitz’s discussion about the way that place and space reflects and reifies white privilege could inform my rhetorical analysis of the way that classroom space is (potentially) impacted by the white spatial imaginary.

Muñoz, José Esteban. “Stages: Queers, Punks, and the Utopian Performance.” Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity. New York and Longmon: New York UP, 2009. Print.

In this chapter, Muñoz offers an interpretation of the work of Kevin McCarty, who photographs queer punk performance spaces before the performance takes place. He argues that these photos depict a punk/queer utopia, or, in other words, a space and time that are not bound by heteronormative social constructs of time, space, identity, and notions of futurity. Like the process and post-process movements within the field of Writing Studies, the punk/queer scene that Muñoz describes celebrates that which is in process rather than that which has already come into being. Muñoz describes these stages as a symbol for “a self that does not conform to the mandates of cultural logics such as late capitalism, heteronormativity, and in some cases, white supremacy” (111). I think that this essay could not only provide an interesting model for how to “closely read” a material space, but it could also assist with thinking about the “so what” of my own project. If we reorganize classrooms so that they are more reflective of anti-racist, anti-homophobic pedagogical classrooms, this would be a continual, ongoing process rather than a static, definitive performance.

Nagelhout, Ed, and Carol Rutz. Classroom Spaces and Writing Instruction. Hampton Press, 2004. Print.

In this collection of essays, Ed Nagelhout (a professor of Rhetoric and Writing at the University of Las Vegas), and Carol Rutz (a professor of Writing at Carleton College) include a variety of pieces that examine the relationship between writing instruction and material classroom space to encourage teachers and students to become more conscious and critical about the way that space impacts writing and frames pedagogy. Many of these essays engage with the way that classroom furniture and embodiment / movement (or lack of embodiment / movement) impact writing; however, discussions that engage with queer theory and / or sexuality in the classroom are completely absent, so there’s a good opportunity to build on previous research while, potentially, expanding the conversation.

Rands, Kat, Jess McDonald, and Lauren Clapp. “Landscaping Classrooms toward Queer Utopias.” A Critical Inquiry into Queer Utopias. Ed. Angela Jones. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. Print.

Invoking the work of Jill H. Casid, an art historian, who talks about the concept of a “landscape” as both a noun (a fixed tableau) and a verb (a process by which the tableau undergoes continual change) Kat Rands (a professor of education at Elon University) and student collaborators Jess McDonald and Lauren Clapp position queer landscaping as a process by which teachers and students may arrive at a more progressive, anti-oppressive classroom design. After a brief discussion of the ways in which a classroom is normatively landscaped, the authors figure queer landscaping as a process which involves a subversion of the normative (Western) conception of time, a subversion of structures of authority and the teacher/student binary, and a refiguring of where on a campus (or outside of one) a “class” can take place. The chapter also includes a practical “guide” of suggestions.

Sheridan, David. “Digital Composition as Distributed, Emergent Process: Technology-Rich  Spaces and Learning Ecologies.” Making Spaces: Architexture, Infrastructure and the  Rhetoric of Design. Ed. Rusty Carpenter, Danielle Nicole DeVoss, Andy Frazee, James P. Purdy, David Sheridan, and Douglas Walls. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, (anticipated) 2015.

David Sheridan, an English professor who specializes in rhetoric and writing, teaches at Michigan State University. In this essay — part of a forthcoming collection of essays which focus on analyzing composing spaces across several campuses — Sheridan analyzes the Language Media Center (LMC), which is a part of Michigan State’s residential college of the arts and humanities, and argues that living-learning centers (residential spaces where classes and other learning-related resources are available) are fertile grounds for research into the composing process which happens inside and outside of “actual” writing time. Sheridan’s description of what he calls a learning ecology, which involves a combination of formal instruction and dedicated writing time with informal and accidental conversations (which can actually be intentionally influenced by architectural design) may more accurately describe the composing process. This theory pairs well with Leander and Boltd’s call to apply rhizomic analysis to the restructuring of literacy practices.