Can we describe what an intelligent modern learning environment should be like? By intelligent, I mean buildings that are designed to support teaching and learning and those who use them. I think that we can.
Stonefields School, Auckland, New Zealand
I have been reflecting on how we encapsulate what a modern and intelligent learning environment should be like and thought I would share some broad brush criteria. To a large extent there are some linkages between them all, but it may be interesting to think about the relevance of each. They aren’t in a particular order and perhaps they could be thought of as different perspectives from which to challenge the space(s).
Understanding how people behave as they do is key to creating responsive environments.
I was in a school the other day. It was a delight to be in. Its overall aesthetic design wasn’t anything to speak of, it was in an old industrial building near a town centre. It had plenty of light, and while the young students were playing around there wasn’t loud noise – you could hear quite clearly. Everybody was engaged. The environment was responsive – staff and students could easily move the furniture around. Above all it seemed intuitive to use.
The first in a series of forums by UK Learning for this year focuses on International and UK trends that are demonstrating through research and evidence-based practice the need to rethink approaches to preparing young people for 21st century learning. (Programme here)
The forum is bringing together the shared practical experience of teachers, researchers, design professionals and architects to share the new and developing perspectives and their implications for the design and delivery of new spaces to improve learning outcomes.
It will explore the global trends in education, latest research in school buildings, and how to design learning spaces to support users.
Contributors and delegates from national and international partners will present their views alongside
evidence-based case studies to support, encourage, enable and equip change.
*UK Learning is a membership organisation focused on developing effective, sustainable and stimulating future educational facilities. This is underpinned by the belief that the way to do this is to bring together teachers, educators, design professionals, researchers – indeed – all those who value the importance of improving learning opportunities and life chances for young people. UK Learning is also the UK chapter for cefpi.
There needs to be better evidence for the decisions we make when designing and creating learning environments. Much of what is done, is based on ‘evidence’ that is often not substantiated yet presented as if it were the final word. My friend Peter Lippman, in his book “Evidence-based design for Primary and Secondary Schools” relentlessly and rightly argues the point. Indeed Peter Barrett alludes to this in his recent study that led to his “Clever Classroom” report (see my post: Understanding Complexity in Clever Classrooms).
So, can your school do things better? At the OECD Centre for Effective Learning Environments we are aiming to provide answers. Continue reading
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
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