Wilf Malcolm Institute of Educational Research
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Architecture of ownership: Students and teachers forgoing agentic identities in an innovative learning environment

WMIER, University of Waikato Research Team: Dr Noeline Wright & Associate Professor Rachel McNae
Research Assistant TBA

Project Dates: November 2016 - March 2019

This project examines how students and teachers in a new school forge their identities within innovative physical, curriculum and relational spaces to reflect modern learning needs. We use The Architecture of Ownership concept (Fletcher, 2008) as the unifying framework to understand how teachers and students at Rototuna Junior High School make sense of, and develop agency in, their new school. In this project we are interested in the ways in which teachers and students develop cultural and learning practices, and form and sustain relationships in and beyond their school setting. The research process will support participants to create digital artefacts that they believe illustrate examples of ways they are developing this sense of ownership across the various architectures of the school (for example (physical, relational, learning, curriculum, assessment).

Findings will contribute to new understandings about students and teachers forging agentic identities of ownership within and across various the architectures of the innovative learning environment (ILE) at Rototuna Junior High School.

The Architecture of Ownership is founded on notions of meaningful engagement (Fletcher, 2005), and the research process itself reflects this in its innovative design, methods and actions. Involving students and teachers as co-researchers is a deliberate action to strengthen the research partnership and reflect how an Architecture of Ownership can be enacted, even in small ways. 

Why is this research important?

There is little research in evidence about the perspectives of those inside new schools and how they negotiate what it means to belong to a school that has no established rituals, practices or habitus to call on. This school, like all new school builds in NZ, is designed with modern learning environment (MLE) principles. To that end, the school leaders are rethinking how learning is to take place and forging now connections between subject areas.
This research will explore implications and/or effects of an Innovative Learning Space as teachers and students find their way to teach and learn in it. Through the processes of individual and collective reflection, partnership, shared wisdom and supported practice, new knowledge, skills and theory about how teachers and students make sense of their experiences and form their identities in a new school in New Zealand will be generated.

Who could this research help inform?


This research might help other schools better understand what working within MLEs means for those inside them, especially when a school is brand new. Understanding the perspectives of those teaching and learning within them is a gap in current research knowledge.  By examining how participant learners forge their identities in these new learning spaces, this project will contribute new knowledge about the potential of Innovative Learning Environments and Spaces that can be used to inform the future planning and design of Innovative Learning Environments and Spaces in New Zealand schools, and internationally.


Another desirable outcome is that Rototuna Junior High School is inspired to use the findings to develop a whole school Architecture of Ownership vision for itself so that all of its members have opportunities to develop healthy agentic identities of their own and build a strong school community.


Findings may influence educational policy and teacher education – both pre-service and in-service. Findings may, for example, indicate ways teachers and students in a range of schools can take advantage of robust broadband to forge partnerships over documenting aspects of school life that can be useful for student achievement, school and ERO reviews, teacher appraisal, school-wide planning and Board of Trustee governance.

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