How can your school do things better?

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).

LEEP

So, can your school do things better? At the OECD Centre for Effective Learning Environments we are aiming to provide answers. Continue reading

The best kindergarten you’ve ever seen!

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!

A Lever for Learning

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?

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

Understanding Complexity in Clever Classrooms

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.

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

The Real Shift in School Design

Epping part-01

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

What is a sustainable learning environment?

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?

Complex interaction

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

Creating Space to Re-imagine the Learning Environment

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?

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