As teachers, we consider the curriculum, our assessment methods and engagement of students in our class. We consider a plethora of ideas and theories when developing and implementing our own practice and routines. Yet – how often do we consider the Learning Space? Not the classroom, not the tables or chairs in it, but what it means as a whole and how its being impacts student learning.
After reading the post titled “Study Shows How Classroom Design Affects Student Learning“, referencing P.S.Barrett, Y. Zhang, J. Moffat and K.Kobbacy’s (2012) “An holistic, multi-level analysis identifying the impact of classroom design on pupils’ learning” study/research, I am continuing to think about how “color, lighting, and other classroom design choices can have a huge impact on student progress”. Thinking from 2 perspectives, below I will give a recount of my experiences in the Learning Space, and how said attributes have contributed, in some way to my perceptions as a student and as a teacher.
As A Student
Growing up, I remember that my success in school had much to do with what was going on outside of school as within. The school, as an institution and building, was another place I learned but I only did so when i felt comfortable, when my learning space exuded a certain atmosphere or aura. I needed the right amounts of bright colours, natural light and open space to function right, to think with a mind clear of distractions and obstructions – I needed a distinctive atmosphere that worked for me and my learning.
I sought out open spaces to work whenever and wherever possible. I looked forward to being a part of specific classes that took place in specific classrooms. At that point in time, without knowing, I was designing my ideal Learning Space, my ideal collaborative space, in essence a state of mind in the form of a thinking space.
As An Educator
Still growing up, I know that my work environment brings with it many recollections of when I went to school – from the curriculum, to the pedagogical practices employed. But – more visually, the Learning Space(s) I work within have minimally changed in comparison. The colours and lighting are still dim, the classroom furniture and physically designed space still confined and barricading. I continue to ask questions regarding these observations, thinking critically about what my Learning Space meant to me as a student and what it most likely means to those who are my students today.
Of course, efforts can be made in altering classroom appearances, changing the colours of the walls and even the types of lights being used – but some major and impactful choices have already been made some 50 years ago upon building design and construction, during a time when the requirements and practice of teaching and learning were defiantly different from those we aspire towards to today. The Learning Space(s) I work within today are still confined, are dingy and dark and, in my opinion, minimally invite the communicative, collaborative and creative skills that they are in place to foster, nurture and support.
Ultimately, I may be holding onto my once upon a time dream of becoming an architect, but I believe that thinking about the Learning Space in this way allows one to consider the design principles that facilitate open and diverse occurrences of learning, those experiences in knowledge creation which are vital today. My next steps are still vague, but I know ae vital. I know that my next steps will involve some research, some critical looking and some thinking about what I would do if I could do things differently – that is, how I would design the learning space to accommodate today’s essential skills and today’s students.
I write and talk a lot about the “virtual learning space”, the online world where teachers and students interact outside of brick-and-mortar spaces. Is it time to reverse my thinking and to focus on what I have been trying to avoid? In my mind, the physical classroom may have become so far removed from my ideals of how education should occur that I have abandoned it – but, rethinking the physical classroom and Learning Space is essential. Just as important could be questions such as: how can we begin to take positive communicative, collaborative and creative attributes of the online Learning Space and foster them in the physical one? How can we connect these spaces in more authentic ways (besides typical “blended learning” scenarios)? Must we go back to the literal drawing board and rethink our arcitectual designs, accommodating the development of critical skills for the NOW (21st) century?
In an effort of continuing this thinking, discussion and research, I have set up a Thinking & Rethinking The #Learning Space Google Doc that I am sharing to all those who are willing to contribute. This doc is driven by the key question, adapted from the article “Study Shows How Classroom Design Affects Student Learning“: How does classroom design (colour, lighting and other design choices) affect student learning and progress? Your thoughts and ideas are much appreciated.
Joseph Romano (@romanoj) is an #ICT Educator at the Toronto District School Board (@TDSB), researcher of Virtual World Pedagogy (#VWP), Blogger at Classpace (@Classpace), Educational Technology Consultant at MindShare Learning (@MindShareLearn) & an Educational Technology Advisor at MaRS Discovery District (@MaRSDD).