Anglican Church Grammar School New Generation Learning Spaces (NGLS) Project

A collaborative research initiative between Anglican Church Grammar School (Churchie) and LEaRN at the University of Melbourne for seven years from 2010 to 2017.


Learning Environments Applied Research Network (LEaRN) worked in partnership with the Anglican Church Grammar School (Churchie) for seven years from 2010 to 2017 to develop an evidence base for the redesign of the schools learning spaces. The project was associated with LEaRN’s Australian Research Council projects, Evaluating 21st Century Learning Environments (E21LE) and Innovative Learning Environments and Teacher Change (ILETC).

The purpose of the project was to develop an evidence base to inform both the design and pedagogical use of learning environments (school facilities) in the school. To achieve this, LEaRN evaluated existing spaces with teachers and administrators to inform an educational brief for the spaces needed for the appointed architects to work from.

Detailed Project Outline

  • Objectives

    The project focused on answering the question, what constitutes an ‘effective’ learning environment, at a critical stage where the mature of learning environments was evolving with the growing influence of digital technology usage. To do this, the longitudinal New Generation Learning Spaces (NGLS) project provided an approach and suite of tools to measure the pedagogical impact of different learning environments. This novel approach isolated the impact of different learning environments to then examine how they influence student and teacher activity and behaviour.

    The collaborative partnership between LEaRN and Churchie focused on providing empirical evidence to determine whether there was a positive and measurable impact on teaching and learning from investment in contemporary/innovative learning environments.

  • Outcomes

    The NGLS project is made up of four studies, each focusing on evaluating a different building

    • Pilot Study – Conducted in 2011, the pilot focused on a single subject research design with a sample of 52 students. The study borrowed an approach from the applied health sciences to moderate the confounding variables when measuring the effectiveness of a spatial intervention.
    • Study 1 – Conducted in 2012, study one used a quasi-experimental and single subject research design with a sample of 164 students. This exploratory study refined the design and method.
    • Study 2 – Conducted in 2013, study three built on the previous two studies by involving 385 students to confirm the design and method of the research design.
    • Study 3 – Conducted between 2014 – 2016, tested and refined an observational metric to understand the micro changes in activity and behaviours that accompanied the transition of students and teachers from conventional to innovative learning environments through three stages; baseline, inhabitation and occupation.
    • Study 4 – Beginning in 2017, this study explores the relationship between teachers’ mind frames and pedagogies that encourage deep learning on student outcomes in different learning spaces (traditional and Innovative Learning Environment (ILE)). This study built on the emergent view from previous works that the design and occupation of different spatial layouts can act as a conduit, or inhibitor, between the beliefs of the inhabitants and culture of the educational context
  • Impact

    The project informed the brief given to architects to deliver new school facilities for the school and mentored Terry Byers through his PhD. The collective works not only isolated, and measured, the impact of different learning environment types on teaching and learning, but highlighted the mediating variable of teacher environmental/spatial competency in the use of any spatial layout for pedagogical gain. The work around the construct of teacher environmental/spatial competency is currently being explored by Vicky Leighton who has also undertaken her PhD with LEaRN (currently in progress).

    The lessons learnt from the Churchie project are also helping to inform a new project taking shape at LEaRN called ‘Plans to Pedagogy’. This project seeks to replicate the Churchie project on a larger scale. For more information on Plans to Pedagogy click here.

Publications and Project Outputs

  • Scholarly Book Chapters
    • Byers, T. (2016).  A quasi-experimental and single-subject research approach as an alternative to traditional post-occupancy evaluation of learning environments. In Imms, W., Cleveland, B. and Fisher, K. (Eds.). Evaluating learning environments: Snapshots of emerging issues, methods and knowledge. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers.
    • Byers, T., & Imms, W. (2016). Evaluating the change in space in a technology-enabled primary years setting. In Fisher, K. (ed.). The translational design of schools: an evidence-based approach to aligning pedagogy and learning environments. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers, 2016.
    • Byers, T. (2017). Development of the linking pedagogy, technology and space observational metric. In W. Imms, B. Cleveland, & H. Mitcheltree (Eds.), What's Working?: 2016 LEaRN International Graduate Research Symposium (pp. 77-88). Melbourne: The University of Melbourne.
  • Refereed Journal Articles
    • Imms, W., & Byers, T. (2016). Impact of classroom design on teacher pedagogy and student engagement and performance in mathematics. Learning Environments Research, 19(2), 1-14.
    • Byers, T., Hartnell-Young, E., & Imms, W. (2016). Empirical evaluation of different classroom spaces on student perceptions of the use and effectiveness of 1 to 1 technology British Journal of Educational Technology.
    • Byers, T., Imms, W., Hartnell-Young, E. (2014). Making the case for space: The effect of learning spaces on teaching and learning.  Curriculum and Teaching 29(1), 5-19.
  • Refereed Conference Papers
    • Byers, T. (2015). The empirical evaluation of the transition from traditional to New Generation Learning Spaces on teaching and learning. Second Annual International Learning Environments Research Higher Degree Symposium.
    • Byers, T. & Imms, W. (2014). Making the space for space: The effect of classroom layout on teacher and student usage and perceptions of one on one technology.  Peer-reviewed full paper, published in conference proceedings, pp.61-69. Australian Computers in Schools Conference, Adelaide September 30th – October 3rd.
    • Byers, T. (2017). What does teaching and learning look like in different classroom environments? Paper presented at the Transitions: Inhabiting Innovative Learning Environments, University of Melbourne.
  • Non-refereed Journal Articles
    • Byers, T., & Imms, W. (2017). Solution? evolution? or revolution. Learning Spaces, 3(3), 50-58.
    • Byers, T., Imms, W., & Rothwell-Meehan, L. (2015). Anglican Church Grammar School: Building for creativity and innovation in a digital world. Architecture Australia, 104(1), 4-7.
    • Byers, T. (2015). Learning environments for a new generation. Atrium, 29, 4-7.
  • Non-refereed Conference Papers

    Byers, T., & Wheaton, A. (2015). The Churchie new generation learning spaces project: Past, Present, and Future. Paper presented at the Learning Environments Applied Research Network Annual Partners Day, Melbourne.


Banner: Anglican Church Grammar School (Churchie) Centenary Library, Brand + Slater Architects. Photo by Christopher Frederick Jones.