The Role of Space in Learning: Spatio-Educational Experiences of Female Students within Emirati Higher Education

PhD Thesis

Zaidan, Gergana 2015. The Role of Space in Learning: Spatio-Educational Experiences of Female Students within Emirati Higher Education. PhD Thesis University of East London Social Sciences
AuthorsZaidan, Gergana
TypePhD Thesis

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

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Deposited10 Mar 2016
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