Tests of Change

Find out how the Tests of Change process is used to help schools across Scotland create learning spaces for its learners. 

pupils in a class with a young girl smiling at the camera
Published: 19/08/2019

Tests of Change is a process that trials out new ways of working in existing learning environments or to inspire the creation of new spaces. It is a process where learners and teachers work collaboratively to highlight issues and opportunities that arise within a learning environment.  

At Architecture and Design Scotland (A&DS) we believe that design has the power to bring people together and make better places for everyone. We want to inspire and support people to be involved in designing and shaping our places.  

In this series of case studies, the Tests of Change process has been used in three schools across Scotland, guiding them to seek out the voices of their learners and staff.  

 Teachers discussing a model floorplan of their school during a Tests of Change workshop and shifting walls around the walls.

Craigbank Primary School 

How do learning spaces support children’s wellbeing?     

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) can create acute stress for children and young people. In response to this, Clackmannanshire Council developed the Readiness for Learning (R4L) programme to help learners better manage stress, and feel safe and ready to learn.  

A key element of the R4L programme is a supportive learning environment, places where learners can shape, influence and feel comfortable. 

Working together to identify priorities 

When the school planned renovations, teachers and learners worked together to identify areas for improvement. The focus was on spaces for wellbeing, and these included: 

  • a mobile library and quiet corner  
  • presentation and exhibition spaces  
  • breaktime and social area  
  • group working and storytelling spaces  
  • creative storage solutions to centrally group specialist resources  

Testing ideas 

The learners tested several ideas and highlighted three areas of improvement:  

  • Diversity: the need for a range of small-scale social spaces
  • Scale: cosy dens, nooks, and personal and quiet spaces
  • Seating: various seating options, from formal seating to lying on mats

Testing different ideas helped the school make investment decisions on the types of furnishing needed for transforming the spaces.  

Changes included new openings to classrooms to create flexible spaces and a learners’ café linked to the playground via a new openable window. Working collaboratively with designers, the learners also designed library furniture.   

By re-imagining settings for wellbeing, the teachers agreed on how to use the R4L programme. The learners felt a sense of ownership of the space, and it supported their voice and choice.   

Case study: Craigbank Primary School

Download this case study to take away key learning from Craigbank Primary School. 

Three pupils test their design ideas during a Tests of Change workshop by building a study booth from cardboard boxes.

Clydebank High School 

How do learning spaces support learner voice and choice?  

A key priority for West Dunbartonshire Council is to ensure that schools make the best use of the spaces available to them.  Clydebank High School is a large school developed through a public-private partnership (PPP). It supports 1,500 learners and their families and has 150 staff. 

The focus of this project was to support learners to re-imagine spaces that support health and wellbeing, and to test what is possible.  

Testing ideas 

A group of learners and teachers developed a strategy for change. They engaged with the PPP partners to test the priorities for the school including: 

  • break out spaces for individual or group work 
  • social spaces and use of circulation spaces for social learning  
  • flexible learning space, adaptable for subjects and learning styles 

Working collaboratively with the council and PPP partners, the learners identified and agreed on spaces to prototype and test new models of learning. They gathered evidence around circulation, materials, health and safety and adaptability.   

The spaces they tested include: 

  • quiet study booths and standing desks with charging points 
  • collaboration tables 
  • presentation space and drama stage 
  • break-time space 

In each test, the priority that emerged was to extend the choice of spaces to support learner wellbeing. Prototyping spaces in the school using cardboard boxes and soft furnishings showed that this was possible. This process provided evidence to decision-makers and reflected the learners’ voice.   

Case study: Clydebank High School

Download this case study to take away key learning from Clydebank High School. 

A group of pupils test their design ideas in a parking space during a Tests of Change workshop by building a classroom from cardboard boxes.

Newton Primary School 

How do spaces respond to the changing needs of pupils?   

The Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) agenda has a strong ethos around learner-led approaches to space in familiar family settings. Newton Primary School has a range of innovative settings for early years through P1 to P2.  

The next challenge was to create more variety in the spaces for older learners. These spaces aim to help learners take responsibility and self-direct their studies—both indoors and outdoors.  

Building an action plan 

The school wanted to adapt its teaching to meet the needs of its learners at all stages. Building on this ambition, teachers and support staff created an action plan that included: 

  • agreements on how to effectively use the shared spaces  
  • new Science Technology Engineering Maths (STEM) spaces with links to the outdoors
  • collaborative learning hubs near classrooms  
  • group working and individual reading areas within the library 

Testing ideas 

Learners from different year groups got together and tested new settings, which included:

  • a bake station and pupils’ café  
  • group gathering and performance space  
  • science hubs  
  • collaborative working tables 

By sharing learning and experiences from the test, the learners grew their confidence in speaking out and expressing themselves. Across the tests and age groups, common themes emerged, including the need for: 

  • quiet spaces and individual study spaces  
  • defined shared and group spaces  

The process helped the school plan its approach to investment and effectively gather the needs of its learners. 

Case study: Newton Primary School

Download this case study to take away key learning from Newton Primary School. 

Header image credit: Jeswin Thomas on Unsplash

Placing learners at the heart of the decision-making process

Learning environments need to cater towards learners needs and experiences. If you are in the process of planning new spaces for your school, we can help guide you in the right direction. Contact us to speak to a member of our team for more information on the Tests of Change process.

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