Research Reports

Additional Support for Learning: a study of educators’ experiences of adapting learning spaces at four education settings in Edinburgh (November 2023)

This study makes a contribution to education policy and practice by exploring the recent experiences of educators in designing and adapting learning spaces in one local authority. It builds on previous research in the field by responding to the question, How can the adaptation of school and Early Years (EY) spaces support the learning of pupils with additional needs? 

The study ran for six months from November 2022 – April 2023. 14 educators from 4 learning settings (early years, primary, secondary, special needs) took part.

Read the Main Findings and Recommendations in the Executive Summary here.

Read about the project, detailed findings, recommendations, and useful annex sheets for educators in the full Final Report here.

Collaborative Virtual Spaces: Is Art Essential? (September 2022)

The National Galleries of Scotland, in partnership with Hidden Giants, developed an investigative project with Blackburn Primary School to explore the value of visual arts to children and the potential role of visual arts as a tool to build their capacity to deal with uncertainty. The initiative, in which three artists worked with learners and teachers from Primary 1-7, ran for three months at the beginning of 2021. The Shared Learning Spaces team at the University of Edinburgh supported the research.

Read a blog on the project on The National Galleries of Scotland website.

Read the full report here.


STEM Visionaries: Inspiring Spaces, Inspiring Learning Project Report (May 2022)

Following on from a pilot project in 2021, the Shared Learning Spaces Team was awarded funding from Regional Skills to explore spaces for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) learning with partners from the Dunfermline Learning Campus: Fife College, Woodmill High School, and St Columba’s RC High School.

To ensure that STEM learning is understood and developed in ways which are inspiring and which will influence their future lives, it is crucial to foreground the voice of learners, teachers, and lecturers. With the Dunfermline Learning Campus projected to be completed for the 2024- 25 academic year, our project offered an important opportunity for the learners themselves to influence the design of the new campus.

Pupils took on the role of ‘STEM Visionaries’, while students from Fife College acted as ‘STEM Advisors’, and they were set the task of creating a participant-led blueprint for the STEM spaces. The brief of the blueprint was to demonstrate how working with young people to design their learning will empower and inspire them not only to enhance their achievements but also deepen their understanding of STEM now and in the future.

Read the full report here.

Read a summary report here.


Murrayburn Primary School Research Briefing (October 2021)

The Shared Learning Spaces Team at University of Edinburgh, Murrayburn Primary School, and an interior designer from City of Edinburgh Council developed a partnership to explore how to give young people greater ownership over their learning spaces and develop key skills for the future.

Collaborating with Primary 6 pupils in the new STEAM Room (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Maths), a series of symbols from the Shared Learning Spaces Design Toolkit were used over the course of a school year (2020/21). The pupils designed a new ‘interactive, agile wall’ for their STEAM Room, creating designs and models and pitching them in a ‘Dragon’s Den’-style event. The research briefing details the initiative and provides some intial findings and recommendations that emerged from the report.

Read the research briefing here.

Regional Skills Shared Learning Spaces Pilot Report (September 2021)

This pilot project set out to create opportunities for young people at different stages of their educational journey to meet each other, work together and share their experiences. Our goal was to invest in young people as pioneers, to understand how they themselves can develop the skills and thinking which can improve the design of learning environments.

The catalyst for the project was the development of a new £180 million community ‘Super Campus,’ that will bring together the Fife College Campus and two schools, Woodmill High School and St Columba’s RC High School on one site. With a projected finish date for the 2024-25 academic year, our project offered an important opportunity for the learners themselves to influence the design of the new campus.

Our aim was to give young people a platform to design their own learning spaces that are agile, sustainable, and owned by learners; in other words, spaces that are integral to their own learning. We were also looking to provide opportunities for young people to develop a range of skills relevant to the dynamic nature of employment and life skills in the 21st Century, such as criticality, resilience, and dealing with uncertainty.

Read the full report here.

Read a summary report here.



Scottish Attainment Challenge (SAC) University of Edinburgh Research Project Final Report (June 2021)

Authors: Professor Do Coyle, Dr Laura Colucci-Gray, Yvonne Foley, Ramone Al Bishawi, Jonathan Hancock

Final research report submitted to the Scottish Government in June 2021 detailing our exploration of shared learning spaces which promote high quality learning, achievement, health and wellbeing. The report describes our research and analytical approach, involving three overlapping case studies focused on shared learning spaces, shared garden spaces, and shared hybrid spaces, and outlines our findings and recommendations for future practice.

Read the full report here.



Briefing: Developing pupil-led shared garden spaces in primary schools in Scotland (September 2020)

Briefing detailing the research into shared garden spaces in six primary schools in Aberdeen City and Edinburgh, situated in areas of multiple deprivation. An emphasis on pupil ownership was incorporated from the very beginning of the garden spaces, with pupils designing and then creating the gardens themselves. Interviews were conducted with headteachers, teachers, and student teachers, with a focus on the impact of learning and interacting in the garden spaces on pupils’ achievement, health and wellbeing.

Read the briefing here.


Briefing: Creating a pupil-led research community between Newbattle High School and University of Edinburgh (September 2020)

Briefing with information on our research collaboration with Newbattle High School and the shared learning events that took place involving pupil researchers at the high school and student teachers at Moray House School of Education and Sport. The views of the pupil researchers and our key findings are outlined.

Read the briefing here.


Case Study: Shared Learning Spaces – Why we need to stop ignoring the fundamental role the physical environment plays in deeper learning for students (August 2020)

Author: Professor Do Coyle

Case study outlining the concept of Shared Learning Spaces and spatial literacies, making the case for the vital importance of considerations of space – physical, cognitive and social – in learning space design.

Read the case study here.


Report: The TePL Initiative: Innovative partnerships connecting educators across shared learning spaces. University of Aberdeen. (July 2016)

Authors: Professor Do Coyle, Ramone Al Bishawi

The Technology-enhanced Professional Learning (TePL) project ran from 2012 to 2016 at University of Aberdeen, and was a precursor to the Shared Learning Spaces project.

Read the full project report here.



Professor Do Coyle (2020) “Teachers and Learners as Designers,” Redefining CLIL Boundaries Conference, Universidad D Cordoba.

Access the presentation here.


Professor Do Coyle (2020) “Spaces are what we do, not what we have,” Creative Bravery Conference.

Access the presentation here.


Professor Do Coyle (2020) “Spaces, Places and Transformative Learning,” Language Pathway Year One, University of Edinburgh.

Access the presentation here.


Professor Do Coyle (2020) “Pedagogic Spaces: What the Media Say,” TLT Language Pathway, University of Edinburgh.

Access the presentation here.


Professor Do Coyle (2020) “Digital Digging, 4-D Planning and Shared Learning Spaces.”

Access the presentation here.

Our Project Scoping Document

SLS ScopingDocument June 2020 [F]