Education professionals like yourself with an interest in pedagogy and the way students learn best are well aware of the impact the classroom environment has on student outcomes. Research from the University of Salford has found classroom design can have a 25 percent impact on student achievement- positive or negative.
The one-size-fits-all approach or ‘traditional’ model of education is a disservice to modern students and educators can do much more to prepare them for an equally modern workforce. We are no longer preparing students for the industrial workplace and as their careers evolve, so too must the way they learn.
Ruyton Girls’ School Principal Linda Douglas is proud of how the school fosters an environment of personalised learning. “Traditionally students have been expected to master a defined body of information, mostly through recall, to give the right answer, to get the right grade, and to proceed through our schools via a linear and defined pathway,” she told School Compare.
“We recognise the need for old norms to give way to deeper, broader and more individualised perspectives on learning, living and success.”
Transformation of the learning space does not necessarily demand a large budget, technology or new building architecture. Many strategies are within the scope of the teacher themselves to create an innovative classroom environment, starting with movable furniture.
Children are agile and move quickly between activities- your learning space needs to be able to keep up. Place value on agility over uniformity and consider equipping your heavy furniture with caster wheels. Spaces can be quickly made and collapsed, tables can be pushed together to allow collaboration and furniture can be quickly moved aside to allow room for activities. If furniture is flexible, so too must be the teacher. Move through the classroom during lesson delivery and change traffic patterns as students walk to and from their desks.
The benefit of a flexible classroom arrangement is that it also creates the opportunity for students to be involved in the creation of their learning space. Consider beginning each morning with a diagram of the desired arrangement of the tables on the white board for the students to assemble when they arrive. By moving away from a pre-constructed, rigid environment, we empower students to be actively involved in their learning and prepare them for a world which is just as fluid and dynamic.
Regardless of the flexibility of your classroom, the space above all should feel welcoming and safe. This partly involves knowing the child’s name, establishing positive rules and opportunities for individual expression, but also how the space makes them feel at 9am each day. What posters adorn your classroom walls? If so, what message do they send? Consider allowing students to create identity posters which literally put a piece of themselves into room design.
In turn, it’s recommended that you ingrain consistency. Students often have complex home lives and they should be able to know what to expect walking into a classroom, this includes structure (not rigidity) and positive rules. This does not mean an environment which is inflexible, but one in which they feel sure and safe to grow.
Learning spaces are not necessarily limited to the classroom. A number of schools in America have embraced the possibilities of realising learning opportunities on school grounds. Riverview Elementary faces wetlands which the school has embraced by carving a path through and around the grounds with signage for native plants and the ecosystem. Playa Vista Elementary created a treasure hunt on campus to teach students about native vegetation and sustainable environment initiatives.
“As we prepare our girls for tomorrow’s world, the development of collaboration, communication and critical thinking skills, along with creativity, digital learning and global citizenship are essential components of our educational focus,” Ms Douglas explains.
Criterion’s Implementing Collaborative Pedagogy Summit, running at the Bayview Eden Melbourne from 14-15 August 2019, recognises the evolving nature of education and the need to maximise spaces as an enabler of better student outcomes.
Principal Linda Douglas and leading educational professionals are gathering to discuss practical methods to:
- Develop soft skills in critical thinking, collaboration & problem solving with modern pedagogy
- Establish structures for culture change & engage teachers in innovative practices
- Maximising spaces as an enabler of better student outcomes
- Measure the impact of 21st century pedagogy
We’re saving a seat for you.