Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Supporting Personalized Learning with Flexible Spaces

I had the opportunity recently to attend a presentation by representatives from Steelcase that focused on how school design is changing to make learning more interactive and student-centered. Over the past few years, Steelcase has researched how space and furniture within schools can be repurposed to better serve the needs of 21st century learning. Their research indicates that learning spaces could be improved if they were made more flexible and allowed for greater student movement and interaction.

By making all furniture movable, teachers can easily reconfigure the room to suit the purpose of the lesson.

The presenter shared many examples of colleges and universities that have incorporated these principles into their new learning spaces. A key change in these classrooms is ensuring the teacher is no longer confined to the front of the room. By making all furniture movable, teachers can easily reconfigure the room to suit the purpose of the lesson. This type of movement might happen two or three times within a single class.

Another key feature of the adaptable classroom is making use of all four walls as surfaces for learning. This approach also ensures teachers don’t simply lecture from the front of the room. Rather than listening passively, students can instead work actively in small groups. Rather than having a single Smartboard or whiteboard at the front of the room, adaptable rooms have interactive surfaces on three points of the room. This allows small groups to have access to mobile technology, which is useful for sharing visual information and solving problems as a group rather than solely relying on teacher direction.

Adaptive and flexible learning spaces are fundamental to Greenwood’s delivery of personalized learning. Increasingly, students will need spaces to work individually or in small groups. Presently our classrooms are configured to support large group learning. Not surprisingly, the learning spaces designed for our planned expansion will take full advantage of the ongoing research by Steelcase and other organizations about what type of learning spaces will best meet the needs of our students.

Allan Hardy

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