How to make your classroom a dynamic tool for learning.
How to get the learning space you need…
(rather than the one you think you want…)
What you think you want and what you actually need are often two completely different things, and this is especially true when it comes to designing learning spaces.
You might think you want to refresh your classrooms, or create a ‘wow’ space that looks fantastic, or simply revamp the library, but unless you think through exactly what you want to DO in the space you run the risk of ending up with more of the same or a space that no-one’s quite sure what to do with.
Seize the opportunity!
With budgets under pressure, every penny counts and you can’t afford to get it wrong. While a ‘wow’ space might look amazing, wonderful aesthetics can’t make up for a space that doesn’t deliver improved learning outcomes. And what’s the point of investing hard-won funding if you’re not seizing the chance to make radical improvements? What if you end up right back where you started? You’d be missing out on an opportunity to create an environment for learning that improves outcomes, engages learners and makes your classroom a dynamic tool for learning.
The Single Most Important Question You Need To Answer
When it comes to learning space design the vital question you need to ask yourself is:
What do I want to be able to do in the space?
If it’s keep children quiet facing the front then you’re reading the wrong article. If you want highly engaged learners working in an environment that supports a range of learning styles, maintains focus by offering variety, and enables physical movement to boost cognitive performance in a range of zones proven by neuroscience to support learning, then read on.
Form Follows Function
The reason ‘what do you want to do in the space’ is the crucial question can be explained by the phrase ‘form follows function’, which has been a design mantra since the early 20th century and still resonates today. What it means is that the function, what a space needs to do, dictates the form, what a space looks like and contains. If you start with form – such as tables, chairs and perhaps some soft seating – you fail to address the purpose of the space. What do you want to do with these tables and why? Do you want to be able to stack the chairs? Why? Fancy a sofa? What purpose will it serve?
If you’re designing a kitchen you need to consider its function as a place to cook, eat and store food. If you don’t think about where you’re going to cook, where the fridge is going to go and how much storage you’ll need you end up with a space with no sink that isn’t fit for purpose and doesn’t have anywhere to put the microwave.
Learning is infinitely more complex than making lunch, so it’s even more important to think through what you want to do in your learning space. To help kick start your design thinking process, we’ve developed four key learning zones, each of which supports a key tenet of the learning process: Gather, Collaborate, Explore, Reflect. In the following pages we’ll explain what each zone does, what it contains and the neuroscience behind it.