CONTEXT: Buildings and learning spaces contribute in crucial ways to people's experiences of these spaces. However, this aspect of context has been under-researched in medical education. We addressed this gap in knowledge by using the conceptual notions of space and place as heuristic lenses through which to explore the impact of a new medical school building on student experiences.
METHODS: We carried out an exploratory case study to explore the impact of a new medical school building on student experiences. Data were collected from archived documents (n = 50), interviews with key stakeholders (n = 17) and focus group discussions with students (n = 17 participants) to provide context and aid triangulation. Data coding and analysis were initially inductive and conducted using thematic analysis. After themes had emerged, we applied the concepts of boundary objects, liminal space and Foucault's panopticon to provide a framework for the data.
RESULTS: There were specific visions and intentions for the place (the location) and space (the facilities) of the new medical school building (e.g. it was positioned to facilitate flow between educational and clinical settings). However, the unintentional consequences of the planning were that students felt disconnected from the wider university, trapped on the health care campus, and under pressure to behave not like students but in a manner they believed to be expected by clinical staff and patients.
CONCLUSIONS: Despite much effort and a focus on creating an idyllic space and place, the new medical school had both positive and (unintentionally) negative impacts on student experiences. These findings highlight the importance of reflecting on, and exploring, how space and place may influence and shape students' learning experiences during the formative years of their development of a professional identity, a necessary consideration when planning new medical school learning spaces or changing these spaces.
the authors thank the College of Life Sciences and Medicine of the University of Aberdeen for its support of LH's doctoral research programme.