Differences in the physical characteristics of classrooms explain 16% of the variation in learning progress over a year, says the research findings from the Holistic Evidence and Design (HEAD) project. Research from earlier stages of this 3 year project have already been published. But little has been said about another reason that this is important work.
Seven factors most influential in the classroom environment.
It is not every day that a study into school buildings is published that takes a very refreshing look at the problem of understanding the complex interrelationships between us as humans, the way we interact with our environment and the impact on student outcomes. Continue reading
Partial plan of Epping Views, by Gray Puksand Architects 2007. The corridors have been incorporated into the learning spaces. ©Gray Puksand
The biggest, and I think the real, shift in school design is the wider recognition that a variety of spaces in schools and indeed outside schools can be effectively used as settings for learning, that schools can use more than just a rectangular classroom box. Continue reading
To understand sustainable learning environments it is important to understand how the physical environment contributes to a wider, more complex system. Indeed surely a building cannot be sustainable in isolation of its context and use?
Thinking of the building in its context was the theme that I developed when I was invited to give a presentation on the use and development of indicators of sustainable learning environments at the World Sustainable Buildings 2014 conference held in Barcelona in October.
We tend to think of the physical learning environment as being just the building. However, it is more than this. It is the result of interactions between the physical resources (including the building, technology and external spaces), learners, educators, content, society and policy. Indeed learning itself is complex. Health and wellbeing, affective, social, cognitive and behavioural characteristics of individuals can all impede or enhance learning. Continue reading
How can we better help teachers imagine the changes they need to make to improve their learning environment?
Manipulating the space. What can we do here?
If you believe, as I do, that effective design and use of space springs from engaging in meaningful dialogue, then we should be better at how and where we conduct these conversations, and indeed with whom. Continue reading
Designing Schools for the Coldest City Earth – Part 2
I have just been talking to a group of trainee teachers in Yakutsk about the design and use of space in schools. I was invited by the Education Institute of the North Eastern Federal University, Yakutsk.
The audience of trainee teachers at the Education Institute, North Eastern Federal University, Yakutsk
In most schools the design is very conventional although teachers and government are very open to looking at different ways of approaching school design. For my own part it was good to be able to learn about how they teach in their education system and what ideas from other places may work there, as well as impart what I have learned from other places. Continue reading
Today I am in Yakutsk, in the Republic of Sakha, Russia. I am here talking about the design of schools and kindergartens, and more generally learning environments with state ministers and to a conference.
Fellow juror Jure Kotnik (left) surveys exhibition of kindergarten competition designs in Yakutsk.
The World Bank is funding the development of kindergartens in Yakutia and has just run a design competition to encourage innovative solutions. I was fortunate in being asked to be on the panel of judges. Having identified the winning designs the next stage will be to invite the architects and builders to develop technical designs in readiness for construction. There is no doubt that in this part of Russia they see education as a key issue. Continue reading
Fifteen years ago I co-wrote a book on briefing for better design. Recently I have been writing advocacy for one government that reiterates the same concept.
Library at Sheffield Hallam University, UK
Briefing in many ways is a process of ‘thinking through design’ – both using design as a process for solving problems and establishing a coherence behind a design. It is concerned with creating a dialogue between those for whom a project has significance, particularly the users and owners but also perhaps other community interests, and those who have responsibility for designing and managing it. Participation is key, but the process of briefing should be carefully managed. Continue reading
Is the importance of a school as an integral place for the community being neglected? I ask because in these times of frugal spending most of the discussion about schools focuses on ‘education’, yet surely the role of a school as a ‘cohesive agent’ in communities and society is just as important, if we are to survive as societies?
So how does a school make real the notion that it is a place for the community at all? Four things come to mind.
First, simply that by their nature schools are communities. A school is a place where as groups, children socialise and learn to live together, sharing common aims, interests or ideals. They are places where students develop skills and character vital for living in and contributing to society. Schools are places where children begin to learn and understand their role in society as a whole. For most children, school will be the first community outside their family in which they will directly engage. Continue reading
Strong client leadership, a clear and well articulated innovative vision for education, and iconic architect Frank Gehry promises to do more than just raise the profile of the business school at University of Technology, Sydney. There are lessons for all of us.
The scaffolding is now coming off Frank Gehry’s new building for the new business school at the University of Technology, Sydney. (c) Roy Green
What is really important about this project is not just the architecture itself, but the deliberate strategy of rethinking the approach to business school education before getting started on the building design. Continue reading
When working with people from different disciplines, it is perhaps obvious that everyone should be able to grasp the basic concepts and language that the others use. If they cannot, then such conversations become at best unfruitful and at worst misleading.
So often when designers meet clients and users of buildings, they present information in such a way that is inaccessible to their audience. Or, they ask questions in such a way that the people cannot respond easily. Therefore the solution must be to establish a common language that enables everyone to discuss issues in such a way that they understand each other. Here is one example of a project to do this.