Designing learning spaces

Some professor told me about 6 years ago when I was completing my masters degree in Curriculum Studies at UBC that there was a lot of research to support the notion that learning environments had a direct impact on student achievement and a whole host of other things, including student confidence and enthusiasm for school. The argument went that if students went to school at a dumpy building with dumpy classrooms they were less likely to feel good about learning and less likely to do well. It also seems to make sense that how individual teachers organize and present their classroom might have an impact on students, how they learn, and what they think the teacher values. SO, I am trying to find research that supports these positions and post it here.

It also seems to reason that the kinds of learning spaces schools create dictate what kinds of learning take place. Most schools seem to only design two kinds of spaces that look largely the same no matter where you go: science labs and multipurpose classrooms (usually with desks or tables, a projector and white board). Some schools might have a drama room, or computer lab too. Increasingly however, schools are removing the computer labs as the computers get mobile and wireless. This will leave a lot of schools with spaces in their schools that they never had before. How to use them? What might we do to diversify the kinds of classrooms we have in schools and thus change up how we deliver education? So again, any potential answers to these questions I am posting here too!

  • D. Gordon, Multipurpose Spaces (2010) Examines multipurpose spaces in schools. After a brief review of the history of multipurpose spaces, the document covers a variety of key issues to be considered for optimal performance of space that will serve various functions and various student and community populations. These issues include location, technology, food service, acoustics, lighting, seating, ventilation, outdoor space, and stage use. Design advice addressing the space a school symbol, and creative adjacencies is included, as are 12 references.
  • S. Harris, SCIL Place of Virtual, Pedagogic and Physical Space in the 21st Century Classroom (2010) This paper outlines work connected to the successful convergence of digital, pedagogic and physical space. The Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning (SCIL) has been focusing on the gap that has existed in schools where the physical layout is often stuck in an industrial-era education model, rather than reflecting the possibilities of ICT-enhanced personalised learning. SCIL has been working to create digital spaces so that students can consistently transition from the real to virtual world.
  • Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 21st Century Learning Environments (2009). Proposes that learning environments must embrace a diverse and complex world of people, places, and ideas. While a tremendous amount of attention has been paid to standards, assessments, professional development, and curriculum and instruction, the paper finds that learning environments are an essential component to supporting positive 21st century outcomes for students.
  • What I like about these guys is that they haven’t drank the “collaboration” kool aid. I think schools, especially middle schools, should embrace pedagogies that encourage collaboration, but we also have to make sure the pendulum swing doesn’t go to extremes. There’s still a need for traditional and independent learning spaces.
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