This paper discusses two interconnected themes: (1) the variegated role of space in primary school architecture; and (2), the perception of this space as a lived phenomenon from the perspective of pupils. In this context, space is not seen as being synonymous with the physical properties of a school (although this does exert an influence), but as an 'active ingredient' through which a particular social order is produced and sustained. Echoing the work of Lefebvre's (1991) triadic conceptualisation of space, Markus's (1993) meshing of architecture and power (via Foucault, 1991a, 1991b), certain extensions of ecological/ecosystemic theories of child and adolescent development (Bronfenbrenner, 1979; Deboutte et al., 2006; Deklerck et al., 2003), and Burke and Grosvenor (2008) on pedagogic practices and space, we argue that space, far from being a Cartesian 'bucket' to contain social action, is a fundamental dimension of any teaching and learning environment. More specifically, what we refer to as 'space' is structured (i.e. produced and organised) by the social actions of agents (pupils, teachers, parents and administrative staff) within the school environment, which is refracted back onto these agents and, in turn, structures them. By applying a predominately visually-orientated methodological approach, namely graphic elicitation and participant-generated images, the study focused on a cohort of 17 pupils in a senior primary school in Dublin. The discussion of the data explored how the pupils categorised space(s) in the primary school environment, and how their act of 'structuring the structure' generated complex and competing meanings. The results of this visual study indicated that it was pupils who maintained the power to appropriate spatial and social relations, creating possibilities of performance, repetition and regulation, contest and conflict within the school environment. Discussions of these results directed learning towards conceptions of space as a subject of ineluctable importance in educational and psychological research. © The British Psychological Society, 2011.

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Educational and Child Psychology





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School of Psychology