The Role of Space in Learning: Spatio-Educational Experiences of Female Students within Emirati Higher Education
This interdisciplinary research examines the intersectional relationship between\ud the domains of space, gender and education. It aims, first, to understand the\ud spatio-educational experience of Emirati female learners; and second, to make\ud it possible to enhance their learning experience by exploring the role of space in\ud learning in a single gender context. This thesis addresses the lack of literature\ud on women’s spatiality and space in learning, specifically in relation to Arab\ud women’s learning in the Gulf region.\ud The research is based on social theories of space including the social\ud construction of space and Lefebvre’s triad of “perceived”, “conceived” and\ud “lived” space, which offers a structure to organise and understand the female\ud students’ spaces, with a focus on how spaces shape and construct the\ud educational milieu while being constructed and appropriated by its users.\ud Methodologically, it follows an interpretivist/constructivist-postmodernist\ud paradigm, applying a unique ethnographic (instrumental case study) qualitative\ud inquiry that incorporates multiple data collection techniques and a ‘multi-zones’\ud approach to explore in depth the spatial experiences across a network of zones.\ud It also acknowledges the unique positioning of the researcher as both an insider\ud and outsider.\ud Applying thematic analysis with some analysis of spatial positioning led to the\ud emergence of four mega themes and several subthemes that constitute\ud students’ spatiality. Spatiality here is manifested through the combination of: the\ud unique ways Emirati females engaged with and appropriated space,\ud constructing their own private spaces (cocoons) within the public campus\ud space; the ways they perceive and experience the university ‘gendered’ space,\ud including their agency in contesting and negotiating such space; and their\ud rhythms, revealing the types of spaces that emerged under Lefebvre’s triad with\ud specific focus on the emergence of ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ spaces. Such spatial themes\ud were strongly influenced by the Emirati females’ unique identity and grounded\ud in their cultural formations.
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