Many of the educational buildings and spaces in our communities were designed around traditional row by column classroom layouts, layouts that are akin to the now outdated and more passive learning methods of old. Today’s teachers and students need flexible agile learning spaces that take advantage of the shift toward active learning, enabling future generations of young people to compete successfully.
For many this requires a careful balance, marrying the heritage and character of longstanding educational institutions with the flexible, multifunctional learning environment that students and their families are increasingly expecting to see. Not everyone learns in the same way though, so these spaces need to flex and adapt to cater for a variety of learning styles and preferences.
Flexibility is certainly not a new concept in education, after all educators have for many years understood the need to use halls for assembly, performing arts, sports and more. What is new though is the frequency with which this flexibility is required.
As students use a variety of different learning styles throughout the day, they demand more of the spaces they occupy. This has given rise to variety in the classroom – one lesson might involve lone work and intense concentration followed by lively group interaction and collaboration on a whiteboard. Modern classroom design needs to offer a wide variety of layouts, which can be changed easily within the lesson not just over the course of a day or week.
Technology has played a huge part in the shift. Mobile technology has broken the link between the act of learning and the place of learning. Students do not have to be sat at desks to learn, nor are they reliant on dedicated computer rooms to access technology. Instead it is around them all the time. Modern learning environments have technology at their heart and it’s integral to their design. This takes into account spaces, furniture and surfaces to support different technology as well as presentation tools to aid inter-classroom communication and easy access to power for charging too.
Empowerment is perhaps not an easy bedfellow when discussing education, particularly for certain age groups, but it most certainly expected for older students. Those in need of quiet time might favour working in pods where they can also charge their devices. Those working in groups make prefer informal relaxation spaces to nurture ideas and kitchen table settings for group thinking. Breakout areas and soft furnishings give students somewhere to sit and relax and support peer-to-peer learning too.
These changes put a new set of demands on the physical space (in terms of size and configuration of rooms) as well as the furniture, equipment and technology within it. Progressive educators understand the relationship between buildings, interior design and motivated, engaged and successful students. It is these educators who are leading the charge in creating more visually stimulating and empowering learning spaces.
To find out more about the education revolution, download our whitepaper When Education and the Workplace Collide, which is full of guidance and advice: