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
The much lauded Fuji Kindergarten on the edge of Tokyo is certainly the best and most enchanting kindergarten that I have seen. It deserves the many acclamations it has had.
In his very engaging TED talk just released, the architect Takaharu Tezuka gives his personal view. It is well worth watching!
As if to sum up his approach to the design of this place he once told me that “Good design starts with people!” It is a philosophy he holds for all the buildings that he designs. Indeed on the several occasions I’ve worked with him or been in his company, the people take centre stage as they should. The humanity behind this design certainly shines through.
But there is more than that – it has spirit! If you want to create a great place to be, then you have to create a place with spirit. But how? What is the recipe? Is there one, even? Perhaps it is the client who was prepared to take a risk and do things differently. Perhaps it is the design that is prepared to acknowledge that young children can be exposed to challenging environments. Perhaps it lies in a deceptively simple idea well executed that creates a fun place to be. It could be all or none of these things, or something else. Whatever it is, it is that spirit that we should create in our schools.
If you get the chance to visit Fuji, you will sense the fun and enjoyment that the kids and indeed the teachers get out of being here, and I’m sure you will find it fun too.
Congratulations once again Taka!
The quality of the physical learning environment can leverage good teaching but cannot replace poor teaching. Can we help teachers make better use of this lever?
How can the physical learning environment become a lever for better teaching and learning?
A few weeks ago I asked a group of educationalists how much training teachers get in manipulating space. My thinking was, well shouldn’t they? After all space is complex, you can create all sorts of spaces for different things to happen. Indeed how you ‘decorate’ a space influences how people feel in it. How you arrange the furniture affects how you can effectively use different teaching approaches. The answer was, 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
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