Facilitating the Wide Space for Learning!

5. huhtikuun 2022

In this article, we go deeper into the application of Wide Space to facilitate learning and extend the thinking to consider how teachers and students might plan collaboratively to co-create ‘best learning moments’. Former term for the ‘Wide Space’ was ’White Space’. It might be helpful to access our original article (Hall & Leskelä, 2017), to appreciate the depth and complexity of Wide Space as a concept. We define best learning moments as referred to within the recent Open University report ‘Innovating Pedagogy 2021’ (Kukulska-Hulme ym., 2021).

Managing Wide Space for optimum learning

The concept of Wide Space applies to many aspects of our work and our lives in general but for the purposes of this article, we are concentrating on Wide Space for Learning only, so that ’I can be the best learner that I can be’. In practical terms, the objective is to enable the learner to initially share and ultimately take more control of how, where, when and with whom they learn best.

The idea is to have a mutual system of managing the optimum conditions for learning so that ‘best learning moments’ can be planned intentionally. It is vital that both teacher and student are conscious of what conditions enable each individual learner to make the most of the learning opportunity or experience.

The key then is to consider to what extent the teacher and the student can jointly control those conditions so that everyone has an equal opportunity to learn as quickly and effectively as others such that every learning opportunity can be a ‘best learning moment’.

Applying Wide Space in practice

In terms of applying the Wide Space Principles to any learning situation, it depends on the perspective both the teacher and the student adopts towards how learning might be optimised. What we have found from our own experiences is that these perspectives enable us to consider how Wide Space can contribute to ‘best learning moments’. Our suggested process starts with teachers’ own reflections and then follows this pathway…

  1. Self-reflecting as a teacher
    In your mind “organise” your thoughts first – do you think Wide Space concept will give added value to learning, will make learning more effective? If you think “perhaps” or “don’t know”, then leave Wide Space as a concept for the time being. In the case you really think “yes”, go for it.
  2. Readiness for Wide Space
    What are the key objectives and focus when planning teaching and the learning it provokes according to Wide Space Principles? For a teacher to make best use of Wide Space he or she needs to organise their own thinking first rather than organise the classroom – what learning theories are they applying to their teaching? Are learners mentally ready? To what extent are learners socially and collaboratively ready? Is the climate for learning appropriate for the learners? Are relationships, group dynamics and atmosphere right? Putting learners at ease, making them feel interested, able and ready for learning is a key part of using Wide Space.
  3. Helping students to get started
    To achieve the right balance and depth of Wide Space Principles that might be applied, learners’ own self-awareness is key and may include their own self-reflection as a starting point. But to be able to be self-directed in this way, students also need to have self-knowledge of their own learning (metacognitive) processes. Effective learning is a very personal, learner-centred process. Every student needs to be aware of their own patterns and preferences of learning and how they learn most effectively.
  4. Designing class-based, online and remote/home learning activities and planning learning outcomes
    Take time to explain the idea of Wide Space to students and their role as co-managers of optimum conditions for ‘best learning moments’. Let students familiarise themselves with Wide Space Principles when discussing with them the implementation of a course of study. A good application of Wide Space Principles is to encourage students to suggest their own intended learning outcomes, in addition to those planned for by the teacher.

A step forward towards engaging learners in the use of Wide Space Principles would be to design a reflective questionnaire or checklist to enable teachers and students to make Stage 3 ‘Helping students to get started’ more effective. This is our next step…

Steve Hall, Senior Lecturer, Staffordshire University
Jori Leskelä, Principal Lecturer, Tampere University of Applied Sciences


Kukulska-Hulme, A., Bossu, C., Coughlan, T., Ferguson, R., FitzGerald, E., Gaved, M., Herodotou, C., Rienties, B., Sargent, J., Scanlon, E., Tang, J., Wang, Q., Whitelock, D., Zhang, S. (2021). Innovating Pedagogy 2021: Open University Innovation Report 9. Milton Keynes: The Open University.

Hall, S. & Leskelä, J. (2017). The White Space. The Learning Teacher Magazine, 1, 10-11.