Link between Space and Pedagogy

It has long been established that the physical learning environment significantly affects both teaching practices and the ways that students engage with the learning experience itself. That’s why it’s so important to implement specific design elements into your learning spaces to facilitate interaction and collaboration, ultimately enhancing learning outcomes.

As society rapidly develops with each day, a paradigm shift in the designs and attributes of learning and teaching spaces can be observed. New learning tools emerge as technology advances. Traditional classrooms are outdated and can no longer cater to the students’ 21st-century requirements. So architectural innovations are important to educational facilities as they enhance the overall learning and teaching experience. 

Physically speaking, traditional learning spaces are characterised by groups of students instructed by a teacher at the front of the room. Desks are forward-facing and teaching spaces did not open onto each other. This kind of set-up allowed teachers to monitor their students in a rigid environment, controlling the flow of knowledge and information instead of facilitating it. 

However, today’s ideal educational layout favours open-learning environments. The contemporary learning spaces can exist in various spatial designs, with each facilitating different pedagogical activities. Certain physical conditions: air quality, light, noise, temperature and size, must all be taken into consideration when designing these spaces. Innovative learning environments are adaptable and highly flexible, where walls can open to allow for the reconfiguration of classrooms and team teaching. These modern learning spaces offer a broad range of learning activities, helping to improve collaboration and providing integrated spaces that allow students to move according to their needs. In this way, the contemporary learning space should be seen as more of a ‘learner’s’ space and less of a ‘teacher’s’ space.

Furthermore, flexible learning spaces help in personalising and customising the teaching approach to suit the needs of each student, while also providing ample opportunities for innovation. This more personal approach creates an environment where a student’s critical thinking skills are enhanced. In order to provide their students with a more flexible learning experience, educators are also encouraged to collaborate with each other.  

Changes in the learning environment affect how students receive and process information, and certainly influence how educators deliver that information. As these changes are introduced, an adjustment period is to be expected, as both students and teachers learn how to navigate the new space. Additionally, as drivers of the learning experience, teachers should aim to figure out the most effective ways of optimizing the space, so that the students can fully benefit from it. 

Consult with a registered architect today to make your vision a reality.

At B2 Architecture, we work collaboratively with our clients to design places and spaces that help us all think better, do better and live better. We take the time to understand the unique needs of the client we’re working with whether it’s for commercial, community, educational or residential projects, ensuring each project is unique and achieves the specific requirements of stakeholders and the broader community. With our approach to sustainable architecture and commitment to designing to build better, we ensure that sustainable initiatives are applied to all projects to minimize the impact on the environment no matter the budget

To learn more about B2 Architecture, please call us on +613 9429 4255. You can also send your queries to [email protected]

Securing school building grants

The role and importance of a Master Plan

A well-considered Master Plan allows your school to demonstrate it has a clear vision, strategy and plan in place for the future and will add significant strength to grant or funding applications.

Far more than a set of drawings, a Master Plan details where the school is at now, where it plans to be in the future and how it will get there – aligning the school’s strategy and vision with its built environment. 

The Master Plan development process provides a school with the opportunity to review its current pedagogical approach and explore emerging teaching and learning trends, to ensure the relevance and effectiveness of the school in the future. 

As a governance document, the completed Master Plan guides a school’s development over the next ten to fifteen years, ensuring a long-term approach that aligns with the school’s vision for learning is applied and maintained.

Based on the school’s vision, education and business plans, the Master Plan:

  • Details existing land uses, buildings and facilities and proposed future uses and building projects.
  • Sets out development phases, with likely timeframes and costs.
  • Provides the logic and reasoning that underpins the plan and need for development.
  • Includes drawings, schedules, explanatory diagrams, surveys and other materials to support grant applications and inform future decision makers. 
  • Ensures sound decision-making and ultimately improved learning outcomes from the use of school resources and funds.
  • Provides external authorities and financiers with added confidence in funding a school’s building projects. 

Developing a school Master Plan

The very process of developing a Master Plan allows a school to create and instil a clear vision that is shared and owned by its community and stakeholders. A vision that clearly conveys the school’s ethos, values, purpose and what it hopes to achieve for its students now and in the future. 

Together with the school’s Education & Learning Plan and Business Plan, the vision should be used to guide and inform the development of the Master Plan. 

Step 1. 

Develop a brief for your Master Plan consultants

Before engaging your Master Planning Architect and consultants the Planning Committee should be clear on what it wants to achieve and use the school’s vision, philosophy, education and business plan to develop a briefing document that includes:

Step 2. 

Develop a brief for your Master Plan consultants

Before engaging your Master Planning Architect and consultants the Planning Committee should be clear on what it wants to achieve and use the school’s vision, philosophy, education and business plan to develop a briefing document that includes:

1. Background information relating to how the school has grown and evolved over time, with a focus on facilities and the built environment.
2. The key issues that need to be addressed and resolved through the Master Plan, which may include things like:
  • Lack of facilities and learning environments needed to cater to increasing enrolments.
  • Older buildings that have become dilapidated and require replacement or refurbishment.
  • Refurbishments or upgrades to suit contemporary pedagogical practices.
  • Car parking.
  • Disability access.
3. An Education Specification that sets out the school’s long-term approach to teaching and learning. It should outline the school’s philosophy, current curriculum and pedagogy and provide details such as:
  • How students learn
  • What will be taught
  • Who will teach it
  • How it will be taught
  • The facilities that are required to teach it.
4. The school’s Operational Requirements which should detail the future accommodation and operational requirements of the school and include specifics such as: 
  • Student enrolments – current and future projections
  • Staff numbers, employment and conditions
  • Staff accommodation requirements
  • Finance
  • Student welfare
  • Occupational health and safety considerations
  • Maintenance and planning requirements
  • Transport needs – busses, car parking etc.
  • Waste management
  • Environmental plan

Step 3.

Engage your Master Planning Architect

In selecting and engaging a Master Planning Architect the focus should be on appointing one who is experienced in designing education facilities and the process of master planning for education. They should demonstrate knowledge and understanding of current pedagogical trends and curriculum considerations, promote a collaborative and consultative approach to the process and be well positioned to advise and guide the Planning Committee. 

The development of the Master Plan should be a highly collaborative and consultative process, led by the Master Planning Architect and Planning Committee. Because the Master Plan is designed to guide the school’s development over an extended period, the process should not be rushed (allow four to eight months) and collaboration and consultation should be prioritised as part of the process.

Step 4. 

Information gathering

Once the Master Planning Architect is appointed, the next step is to commence gathering information. This stage is focused on investigating the current site conditions, the surrounding neighbourhood and future developmental impacts such as new housing developments, road widening, transport infrastructure, bike paths or pedestrian access. 

The process will include:

  • Full site analysis and a features survey prepared by a Land Surveyor.
  • Existing building condition and services surveys.
  • Hazardous Materials investigation.
  • Current access and movement patterns, including disabled access.
  • Current zoning and planning controls.
  • Future developments – proposed and approved. 
  • Obtaining Town Planning and Traffic reports.

Step 5.

Community engagement and planning

The planning stage needs to be highly consultative and should involve members from all parts of the school and wider community, to determine:

  • The school’s pedagogical and space needs. 
  • What facilities are needed to deliver the desired educational outcomes? 
  • The specific needs of staff both within the learning environment and outside the learning environment. 
  • Creation of initial plans and diagrams to explore how needs can be accommodated.  

Workshops with staff, students, parents and the broader community are an essential part of this stage and help to facilitate the exploration of ideas and gather feedback from the school community.

Step 6. 

Master Plan design and development

With all the necessary background information collected, the Master Planning Architect will begin the process of developing solutions and plans for the consideration of the school community. 

A range of options should be developed and explored through a series of stakeholder workshops, prior to the draft Master Plan document being created. 

Once the Master Plan has reached the draft stage, other consultants (Structural Engineers, Landscape Architects etc) will be called upon to contribute to and refine the plan. 

The final step is then to engage a Quantity Surveyor to estimate building development costs, which will then be used by the Planning Committee and Master Planning Architect to develop and document a costed staging or phasing plan. 

Once the Master Plan is developed

Upon completion of the Master Plan, the school will be well placed to begin the process of applying for building grants or seeking funding from external parties. The final document will provide confidence to external authorities and financiers, demonstrating the school has a clear vision, strategy and plan for the future that is shared and owned by its community.  

It is important that the Master Plan be reviewed every two or three years, especially prior to commencing a new stage or phase. Teaching, learning and pedagogical approaches are always evolving, planning laws and regulations change, as do school staff and leadership teams. Regular reviews and revisions of the Master Plan will ensure it remains relevant and aligned with the school’s goals and vision as time goes on. 

What makes an ideal learning space?

Ask any teacher and they will tell you with no uncertainty that our surrounds impact the way we feel, think and engage. While the role environment plays in shaping our interactions and behaviour may be more pronounced in children, don’t be fooled, the effect on adults is the same.

As pedagogical approaches have evolved over the last few decades, so too has the thinking and debate over what makes an ideal learning environment. In the last 20 years alone, we have seen a variety of trends come and go – from the traditional classroom, to completely open-plan teaching spaces, to hybrid environments, indoor/outdoor spaces and many others.

Schools have invested millions in building facilities that feature the latest contemporary learning environment trends, only to find that teachers hate the spaces. While other schools have built similar facilities and seen staff and students thrive.

What makes the ideal learning environment?

Different teaching styles, approaches and learning modalities lend themselves to different environments – so it is not surprising that what makes the ideal teaching environment for one teacher, may be different for another teacher. Or that a certain approach to classroom design will cater to the vision and education philosophy of one school, but not another.

In 2014 Dovey and Fisher developed five unique typologies to aid in distinguishing different types of learning environments, ranging for the Traditional, instruction based classroom, to the Open Plan Learning Space.

Traditional spaces are designed for instructional teaching practices, where the teacher sits or stands at the front of the room and delivers the lesson. Open-plan learning spaces on the other hand are designed to be less authoritarian, aid children’s social development and promote ‘team teaching’.

In the middle are what we like to call ‘flexible learning spaces’ – spaces that support a variety of teaching and learning modes, from teacher-centred learning to student-centred learning.

Flexible learning spaces offer the best of both worlds

Flexible learning spaces offer teachers and students enormous scope to both teach and learn in the way that best suits them. Featuring a considered mix of classrooms and flexible common spaces that feature folding walls, along with break out spaces and integrated outdoor learning spaces, they allow the learning environment to be tailored to suit individual learning exercises. That means that they can comfortably accommodate and support all types of teaching styles and approaches, from traditional instruction based lessons to group work, self-exploration and other learning modalities.

Lalor East Primary School

Lalor East Primary School is a prime example of a primary school that features carefully considered and effective, flexible learning spaces. The common areas and breakout spaces are surrounded by a mix of traditional classrooms and flexible learning spaces that feature folding walls that allow the spaces to be adapted to suit individual lessons and learning requirements.

Melbourne Girls College

Melbourne Girls College shows how flexible learning spaces can be utilised by secondary schools to create dynamic learning environments that cater to a variety of subject matters, teaching and learning styles. With a considered mix of traditional and flexible classrooms, the learning centre features common spaces that suit different learning modalities.   

Westbreen Primary School

Featuring hexagon shapes classrooms that surround common spaces, Westbreen Primary School is a prime example of how classroom design can be used to support innovative learning practices. See more of this project.

What’s right for one school, isn’t necessarily right for another

For schools looking to invest in new facilities, or rejuvenate existing facilities, designing learning environments that cater to the school’s current pedagogical approach and provide the scope, flexibility and amenity for that to evolve over time, is challenging. No doubt, parents, teachers, students and the broader school community all have their own ideas and opinions as to what could, or should, be created.

Over the last 25 years, B2 Architecture has been the lead architectural firm on more 500 primary, secondary, catholic, government and independent school building projects, upgrades and refurbishments. Director, Brent Tullio, explained:

‘If there is one thing that we know about education it’s that a ‘one-size fits all approach’ does not ‘fit all’. Just as individual students learn differently, different teachers teach differently. Different subject matters require different teaching techniques, and facilitating different learning modalities requires different settings.

While each school has specific requirements that need to be met as part of a building project or upgrade, the school’s Vision, Education Plan and Business Plan are equally as important in informing the design of the facilities and ultimately ensuring a successful outcome’. 

Creating the right design for your school

When working with schools, Brent and his team ensure the design process is characterised by a consultative and collaborative approach. As specialists in education architecture, each member of the team has a deep appreciation for the intrinsic link between environment and pedagogy.

Drawing on the school’s vision, pedagogical approach and functional requirements, they prioritise consultation (not just with school leaders, but also students, staff and parents) to ensure that the unique needs of the school community are considered and catered for within the new environments.

School building project consultation

As a Principal or school leader, you know all too well just how important it is to consult with the school community on all manner of issues, considerations and projects. You probably also know that failing to consult with staff, students, parents and the broader school community on issues that affect them can sometimes lead to less than desirable outcomes. 

This is especially true when it comes to school facilities and building projects. Each member of your school community has a sense of ownership of the school. This translates to a strong desire to be consulted and given the opportunity to contribute to the planning and design of facility upgrades or the building of new facilities

The role of consultation in school building projects

The role of consultation isn’t just about ensuring a project meets the functional requirements or needs but also managing the many different expectations of those in the school community.

When done well, stakeholder and community consultation will ensure the success of a project and even strengthen and enhance the school community. When done poorly or not at all, the end result can be facilities that aren’t fit for purpose and a school community that feels disenchanted and disconnected.

Naturally, there are stakeholders within the school community whose contribution is essential to ensuring facilities are fit for purpose, including teaching staff and operational stakeholders. But there are also other members of the school community whose ideas and input can enhance the project’s outcomes.

Tailoring the consultation process to your school and project

In embarking on a school master planning or building project, it is essential that the consultation process be tailored to the unique needs of the school, the project and the community. There is no ‘one size fits all’ method.

In most cases, the project architect will lead the consultation process, which means it is important to partner with a specialist education architect who has a deep understanding and appreciation of pedagogy and the unique needs of education communities.

The role of different groups in the consultation process

Generally speaking, in most schools, the School Council, in conjunction with funding partners such as the Victorian School Building Authority (VSBA) or the Melbourne Archdiocese of Catholic Schools (MACS), will have ultimate responsibility for the delivery of the project.

The size and scale of the project at hand will dictate how the project is managed and the level of consultation undertaken. Master planning projects, for example, will typically involve larger-scale stakeholder and community programs to ensure that the solution meets the school’s long-term needs and aligns with its vision, values and goals. While smaller projects, such as facility refurbishments, or a new gymnasium, for example, may have smaller-scale consultation programs.   

The Principal Planning Group

To oversee the project, schools will typically create a Principal Planning Group (PPG) to oversee and manage the project and report to the School Council.

This will usually be steered by the Principal and include key members of the school’s leadership, such as the Assistant Principal, Business Manager and/or the Head Teacher, along with representatives from the School Council and even VSBA and/or MACS.

The PPG is responsible for steering the project, meets regularly with the project architect and makes the decisions that need to be made as the project progresses through the key stages:

  • Ideas and information gathering
  • Master planning and concept design
  • Schematic design
  • Detailed design
  • Tender and contract administration
  • Construction

Early on in the process, the PPG will work closely with the architect to explore a variety of different considerations that span pedagogy, emerging teaching practices, learning modalities and the role that environment plays in facilitating these. In some instances, the project architect will arrange for members of the PPG to tour other school facilities to experience different types of learning environments first-hand.

The PPG is also responsible for managing and overseeing the stakeholder and community consultation process, which will typically involve consultation with four key groups – staff, students, operational stakeholders and the broader community.

The project architect will work closely with the PPG to design the consultation process, tailoring it to meet the needs and expectations of the school leadership and community.

Various methods and activities should be used to ensure that consultation with each stakeholder group is appropriate and effective. The goal being to bring each community member on the journey and tailor the consultation method to suit their knowledge of building and construction.

This means that various methods and presentation materials are often used, including everything from concept drawings and plans to walk-through videos, 3d models and virtual reality simulations that allow participants to experience the space. 


Staff involvement in the planning and design process varies from school to school and project to project. Often staff will be involved in the:

  • Ideas and information gathering stage
    Providing staff with the opportunity to share and contribute their ideas, practical requirements and considerations, and aspirations early on in the process is highly beneficial and assists your education architect in formulating a thorough design brief. This initial staff consultation program can take various forms, but is often well executed through a survey or workshop.
  • Detailed design stage
    Once the overall design concept has been developed and approved by the PPG, it can be valuable to engage again and seek feedback from staff. This can be facilitated in a variety of ways, whether that be a presentation to the staff body or smaller, more intimate workshops with groups of staff (subject groups etc.).

    By consulting with staff at this stage, the project architect is able to explore and resolve many of the practical and functional considerations of individual spaces, from storage to room layouts, ICT and furniture.


In most cases, consultation with students only occurs in the Ideas and information gathering stage of a project and will often involve:

  • Survey of the student population
  • Interactive workshops with student leaders
  • Classroom visits, where the design team engages directly with class groups.
  • Exercises and activities – such as getting students to design their ideal learning space.

Consultation may also extend to specific student groups or bodies, such as the school’s environment and sustainability committee.

Operational stakeholders

Operational stakeholders need to be consulted multiple times throughout the project to ensure that functional needs are met.  

  • Facility management and maintenance personnel
    These stakeholders are often intimately involved in the project and contribute to each stage, particularly the final three stages, where their practical knowledge of the school’s buildings, services and general knowledge of building and construction considerations and materials is invaluable.
  • Canteen, after-school care providers and sporting clubs
    Consultation with these stakeholders throughout the design stages is critical to ensuring functional needs are met. Typically, your project architect will meet directly with the different stakeholders, sharing concept designs and gathering feedback.

Broader school community

Engagement and consultation with the broader school community, which can include parents, local residents, sporting organisations, environment and indigenous leaders, local government and a variety of other community organisations, is typically done at a high level.

Often schools will choose to engage with parents, local residents and nearby traders through a variety of different methods, which can include:

  • Community information night
  • Website or dedicated webpage that is used to provide updates as the project progresses
  • The school newsletter and letters or notices to local residents and traders.
  • Social media.

While local government departments, sporting organisations and other interested parties such as indigenous leaders are typically consulted with directly.

Determining the right level of consultation for your school

As every school and project is unique, there is no ‘one size fits all’ model for consultation. The consultation program should be tailored to meet the specific needs and expectations of the school and its community.

For this reason, in embarking on a master planning or building project, it is wise to engage a project architect with extensive experience in education, a strong understanding of pedagogy and learning environment design, along with demonstrated experience designing and facilitating consultation programs of different scales.

Over the last 25 years, B2 Architecture has specialised in education, successfully completing over 500 projects for more than 200 different government, catholic and independent schools across Victoria. To discuss your school’s future needs or building project, contact us.

The advantages of modular building for schools

With modular design and construction evolving in leaps and bounds over the last decade, schools across the country have been investing in modular designed and built buildings that feel anything but ‘modular.

Modular buildings don’t need to look modular anymore

When you think of modular buildings, pre-fabricated portable classrooms or granny flats probably come to mind. While ‘off the shelf’, mass-produced structures like these are one type of modular building, they are no longer the only type of modular buildings.

These days, architecturally designed modular buildings feature the same level of considered and customised design as buildings constructed using traditional methods.

Modular design and construction is ideal for schools

In recent years, public, catholic and independent schools across Australia have embraced modular design and construction, with the Victorian School Building Authority funding more than 100 modular school buildings in Victoria alone.

This is because modular design and construction have a host of advantages and efficiencies that are particularly advantageous for schools looking to build new facilities or extend existing buildings. These include:

Less time on site Long-term flexibilityImproved quality control
Because the majority of the building’s construction happens off-site in a factory, time on-site (and the overall construction timeframe) is significantly less than with traditional building methods – minimizing disruption to students, staff and operations.The very nature of modular construction makes it incredibly flexible. As the building is built using pre-fabricated modules, or pods, it can be deconstructed, adapted, added to or relocated relatively easily.With each module constructed off-site in a factory and then installed on-site, modular buildings are highly engineered, structurally sound, solid and permanent structures that perform incredibly well.

Watch as Our Lady’s Primary School’s new learning centre is constructed onsite in a matter of days, using pre-fabricated ‘mods’, constructed in a factory and then transported to the site for installation. 

Considered architectural design makes all the difference

The most successful modular building projects are delivered by architects specialising in modular design and construction, like B2 Architecture.

As a leading education and modular design architect, B2 Director Brent Tullio explains that ‘the key to the success of a modular building is the architect’s ability to focus squarely on the needs and requirements of the building, over and above that of the production method’.

‘Typically, production efficiencies drive the design of modular buildings. At B2, we flip this on its head – designing buildings to meet the performance requirements of the school community first and then engineering the construction detail to suit’.

This means we are guided by four key factors:

  • How the building and individual spaces will be used.
  • The human interactions and activities the building and spaces within it will facilitate
  • How the building will fit within the existing built environment.
  • The unique pedagogical needs and characteristics of the school community it will serve.

In practice, this approach opens up a world of possibilities when it comes to the design of a modular building. By embracing the notion of hybrid construction (combining offsite and onsite construction methods), we’re able to integrate modular extensions within existing structures and incorporate building features or elements that aren’t typical of modular buildings.

The result is always a truly customised and bespoke building that looks at home in its surroundings and is designed to meet the needs of the community it will serve.

South Yarra Primary School

B2’s Award Winning extension and refurbishment of South Yarra Primary School involved integrating a new modular three-storey building as an extension to the existing buildings to create new, unique contemporary learning spaces tailored to the community’s needs.

Our Lady’s Primary School

Our Lady’s Primary School’s state-of-the-art, two-storey, contemporary learning centre features a variety of flexible learning spaces, including a multipurpose gymnasium and music room and a tranquil courtyard to facilitate outdoor learning.

Neerim Secondary College

The new learning centre at Neerim Secondary College, which comprises four flexible classrooms, break-out spaces and a home economics centre, was built entirely off-site. Twenty fully built modules were transported to the site to create the building in six months.

Lalor East Primary school

Lalor East Primary school is a prime example of the flexible but permanent nature of modular buildings. This project involved the design and construction of two new learning centres and an office and administration centre located within the existing school grounds.

Want to learn more about the suitability of modular design and construction for your school building project?

B2’s experienced team of education architects have helped many schools take advantage of the benefits modular construction offers without compromising design and functionality. Contact us to explore the possibilities and potential that modular design and construction offers your project

2023/24 Victorian school upgrades & building works funding

The Victorian State Government Budget announcement included over $700 million for upgrades and building works to existing state, catholic and independent schools.

While application dates are yet to be announced, now is the time to start planning and preparing your school’s application.

What will the application require?

Based on the requirements of previous Victorian State Government funding rounds, we can expect that, at a minimum, applications will need to include:

  • Master plan and Architectural drawings, including:
    • A site plan that shows what areas of land or existing buildings will be changed.
    • Project drawing and floor plans detailing the proposed works.
  • Independent, third-party, itemized cost estimates based on the scope of work, that include cashflow and contingency, prepared by:
    • A quantity surveyor for projects over $200,000, or
    • Two building professionals for projects under $200,000
  • A readiness and commitment to commencing construction within 12 months.

Securing funding for major building projects and upgrades

Generally speaking, successful applications for major building projects and upgrades include a considered and strategic school Master Plan.

Far more than a set of drawings, a Master Plan details where the school is at now, where it plans to be in the future and how it will get there and aligns the school’s strategy and vision with its built environment. It typically:

  • Details existing land uses, buildings and facilities and proposed future uses and building projects.
  • Sets out development phases, with likely timeframes and costs.
  • Provides the logic and reasoning that underpins the plan and need for development.
  • Includes drawings, schedules, explanatory diagrams, surveys and other materials to support grant applications and inform future decision makers.
  • Ensures sound decision making and ultimately improved learning outcomes from the use of school resources and funds.
  • Provides external authorities and financiers with added confidence in funding a school’s building projects.

Once completed, the Master Plan guides the school’s medium and long-term development and helps to provide all stakeholders with confidence the school has a clear vision, strategy and plan for the future that is shared and owned by its community. 

More information about the Master Planning process can be found here.

Getting ready for applications to open

If your school is planning upgrades, building works or capital improvements – now is the time to start preparing your application.

As education architecture specialists, B2 Architecture has over 25 years of experience partnering with primary and secondary government, catholic and independent schools to develop Master Plans, architectural concepts and drawings to support successful funding applications.

For more information or to discuss your school’s needs, please contact us.