Twenty wooden desks are lined up in neat rows. The teacher’s desk is positioned in the front of the rectangular room. The focal point of the classroom is a podium, from which, the teacher delivers the daily lessons. Fluorescent lights buzz from above and faded vertical blinds cover the windows.
Do you remember a similar classroom from your school days? I can almost still smell the pencil shavings and hear the sound of the bell signaling us to move to the next classroom, which looked almost identical to the ones beside it.
But can the traditional classroom space support what we now know about teaching and learning?
Let’s consider these questions when thinking about the traditional classroom set-up:
Flexibility - Is the space flexible enough so that students can easily collaborate and communicate with one another? Is there a place to go for students to interact and work in small groups? Is there also a place to go for students to work individually? Does the space offer places for teachers and students to confer? Is there flexibility and autonomy for students to choose how they will learn?
Inquiry- Where do students go to investigate and search for answers and solutions? Is there a classroom library? Is the school librarian a co-teacher in the classroom? Is the school library utilized to promote inquiry? How do we leverage technology to promote a culture of thinking and inquiry?
Community- Do students feel a sense of ownership over the space? Do they have the freedom to manipulate the space to meet their needs? Is it the teacher’s classroom or is it a community space? Is there evidence of learning on the walls? Are students digital citizens in an online learning community that extends beyond the four walls of the classroom?
“Resource-full”- (full of resources!)- Are bulletin boards used as teaching tools? Are digital tools easily accessible? Are there non-fiction resources pertaining to the current units of study? Where can students go if they need more support? Are there resources available to students who need a challenge?
Innovation- Do students see themselves as designers and makers? Are the right conditions in place for students to create and innovate with various tools and spaces?
Communication- How do students share their learning? Are others invited in and is teaching and learning de-privatized? Is the space conducive to presentations and exhibitions of learning? Are digital tools used to share learning and connect with authentic audiences?
Mobile Learning- Are students and teachers confined to their classrooms? Or are there common spaces on and off campus, online and offline? Which digital tools can be used to learn anytime, anywhere?
Global Thinking-Are students part of a global classroom? Does our learning space (physical and virtual) promote learning about our world? Do students connect and learn with people outside of the school community?
Here are some examples of how schools around the world are rethinking the use of learning spaces:
Additional research and resources