The Third Space

HaSS - Third Space (MG) 2017-09-17_Page_02(Brisbane, Australia) On behalf of the University of Melbourne’s Curriculum Design Lab I delivered a research paper on the notion – and function – of the Third Space in Higher Education at the HASS Futures BA Conference at the University of Queensland.

This conference was designed to provoke discussions around the Australian Bachelor of Arts curriculum. It was also a call to action, to evoke change in the ways that humanities, arts and social science (HASS) education is viewed, described and experienced in Australia and beyond.
The two-day conference was designed to allow participants to address challenges and highlight successes in contemporary HASS education. The program offered presentations, panel discussions, speakers and poster sessions that provoke debate, stimulate discussion, offer new ideas and encourage creative solutions.

Screen Shot 2018-02-23 at 4.29.29 pmPaper Abstract

The Third Space:
Managing Disruption & building capacity in the arts

PDF: The Third Space (Slides w/ Notes)
PDF: HASS Futures BA Conference (Session Abstracts)

As technology disrupts the higher education landscape and legacy technologies constrict innovation and curtail flexibility (Morris 2013) how do we manage meaningful change in the Humanities and Social Sciences? What conversations do we need to have to create a stable and supportive environment that is mindful of traditional pedagogies while also being responsive to an increasingly fragmented future? This paper will argue that collaboration through dialogue and knowledge sharing is a key enabler for driving pedagogical change in the Arts. Further to this, for any initiative to be sustainable requires a considered teaching and learning design framework that transcends silos, budgets and disciplines. Enter, the ‘third space’.

As universities expand and ‘traditional’ academic career opportunities contract, third space academics – who serve not only scholarship but institutional priorities – are emergent. Third space academics are neither exclusively teaching-focused nor research-orientated, yet they participate in intellectual communities and bring an academic skill base to bear on their provision of university services. (MacFarlane 2011) The third space has been defined as a space that exists between academic and professional roles and modulates both. (Whitchurch 2012) Commonly, such definitions refer to professional staff with minimal – if any – teaching experience and who are rarely research active. We argue that, to be effective and cognizant of teaching and learning pedagogies, third space academics need to operate fluidly and constructively across both territories.

surveillance-cartoon-02.pngIn this paper, we will unpack the Curriculum Design Lab (CDL) model within the Faculty of Arts, to discuss possible future directions of third space academics working in HaSS programs more broadly. Drawing upon our convergent roles as internal curriculum consultants, hybrid technologists (Bali 2017) and facilitators of professional development, we will also examine the CDL model in the context of its intersection with other professional services and research initiatives that share similar aspirations for meaningful curriculum change.


Bali, M. (2017). Hybrid Pedagogy. Digital Pedagogy Lab. Cairo, Word Press / Centre for Learning and Teaching at the American University in Cairo). . 2017.

MacFarlane, B. (2011). “The Morphing of Academic Practice: Unbundling and the Rise of the Para-academic.” Higher Education Quarterly 65(1): p59-73.

Morris, S. M. (2013). Decoding Digital Pedagogy, pt. 1: Beyond the LMS. Hybrid Pedagogy, Digital Pedagogy Lab

Whitchurch, C. (2012). Reconstructing Identities in Higher Education: The Rise of ‘Third Space’ Professionals. Hoboken, Taylor and Francis.

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