Sub-theme 14: Open Space Learning in Organizations: The Implications for Critical Knowledge Generation and Power Dynamics


Professor Jonothan Neelands, The University of Warwick, United Kingdom
Dr Ashley Roberts, The University of Warwick, United Kingdom

Call for Papers

Open Space Learning (OSL) is an emergent paradigm of learning informed by psychology and neuroscience (Clark, 1997) and largely, the theoretical approaches of Vygotsky (see Daniels, 2001) and Kolb (1984) amongst others. Epistemologically conceptualizing knowledge as ‘unfinished’ (see Freire & Shor, 1987; Sternberg & Lubart, 1999; Wells, 2008), it encourages learners to holistically navigate the unknown through body and mind (Monk et al., 2011).

It is a premise of the OSL methodology that space is an important factor in the quality of a learning event (Monk et al., 2011). Space is defined pedagogically by how learners place themselves within it, and in this sense should be considered philosophically as well as physically (see Bhabha, 1994). Questions are therefore raised as to the implications of spatial constraint in determining OSL practices and also its apparent dichotomy with traditional forms of learning.

‘In OSL we open public space as well as the private spaces in which we learn… Experience involves risk-taking, it involves experiment, it involves not knowing the outcome of particular areas of exploration, but being willing to take the opportunity that the opening of a space affords them’ (Monk et al., 2011: 6).
The less hierarchical usage of space encourages collaborative learning through experience (Daniels, 2001; Dewey, 1997; Jackson et al., 2006; Kolb, 1984; Savin-Baden, 2008) which is cognitive but also affective, physical, and interpersonal (Gardner, 1985; Seltzer & Bentley, 1999). With Knowledge production taking a more fluid, collaborative form of existence, implications are generated for organizational power dynamics where, the primacy of the traditional, mutually exclusive relationship of learner and educator is challenged (Lambert, 2007: 1).

In this stream we invite papers that explore, but are not limited to, the following areas:

  • How does the use of OSL make a difference to critical knowledge generation in Universities and/or organizations?
  • How might OSL activities make a difference to those engaged with them?
  • What are the limitations of open space as a learning experience?
  • What does impactful OSL research look like?
  • What underpinning theoretical perspectives might yield new insights into practice?
  • How does OSL as an active, critical pedagogy, challenge and/or alter established organizational power dynamics?

Papers may be empirical or theoretical and we welcome a range of methodological approaches.


Bhabha, H, K. (1994) The Location of Culture.  London:  Routledge.

Clark, A. (1997) Being There: Putting Brain, Body, and World Together Again. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Daniels, H., ed. (2001) Vygotsky and Pedagogy. London and New York: Routledge.

Dewey, J.  (1997) Experience and Education. New York:  Simon & Schuster.

Freire, P, and Shor, I. (1987) A Pedagogy of Liberation: Dialogues on Transforming Education. New York: Bergin and Garvey.

Gardner, H. (1985) Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. New York: Basic.

Jackson, N. Oliver, M. Shaw, M. Wisdom, J. (Eds) (2006) Developing Creativity in Higher Education: The Imaginative Curriculum. London: Routledge.

Kolb, D. A. (1984) Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Lambert, C. (2007) ‘Exploring New Learning and Teaching Spaces’. Warwick Interactions Journal. 30 2, 1–6.

Monk, N. Chillington Rutter,  C.  Neelands,  J.  & Heron, J.  (2011) Open Space Learning: A Study in Trans-disciplinary Pedagogy. London: Bloomsbury.

Savin-Baden, M. (2008) Learning Spaces: Creating Opportunities for Knowledge Creation in Academic Life. Maidenhead, England; New York: McGraw Hill/Society for Research into Higher Education & Open University Press.

Seltzer, K. and Bentley, T. (1999) The Creative Age: Knowledge and Skills for the New Economy. London: DEMOS.

Sternberg, R. J. & Lubart, T. I. (1999) The Concept of Creativity: Prospects and Paradigms. In Sternberg, R. J. (Ed.) Handbook of Creativity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wells, G. (2008) Dialogic Inquiry: Towards a Socio-cultural Practice and Theory of Education (Learning in Doing: Social, Cognitive & Computational Perspectives). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Jonothan Neelands is a Professor of Creative Education and National Teaching Fellow.  He is the Associate Dean for Creativity at Warwick Business School (WBS); the head of ‘WBS Create’ and Chair of Drama and Theatre Education at the University of Warwick. His research interests include the value of the arts in education and in society; participatory pedagogies; models of cultural and creative learning; open space learning and the politics of cultural and education policy-making.

Dr Ashley Roberts is the Assistant Dean for Creativity at ‘WBS Create’; National Teaching Fellow and Principal Teaching Fellow in the Organization and Human Resource Management group at Warwick Business School.  His research interests include Creative and Open Space Learning; Participatory Pedagogies; Organizational Growth; High Performance Work Systems, and the Relationship between Organizational Culture, Structure, Identity and Control.


Posted On: June 8, 2014
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