The pedagogy of learning has been shifting for some time now to promote active engagement and collaboration in the classroom, rather than teachers ‘broadcasting’ information to students. The idea is that interaction and engagement improves the way students retain and interpret information. Learning becomes an active process of collaboration between students and with the teacher.
Recent university graduates report seeing a shift in the process of learning. However, graduates found classroom design hindered the facilitation of collaborative learning. Desks are still screwed in place not allowing students to turn towards each other and work together freely. Teachers are still stuck at the front of the classroom because of where the lectern and control centers are located.
‘Classrooms of the future’ address these issues as classroom designers’ work to create learning spaces reflecting collaborative learning and education. These classrooms have learning commons for students multiple working surfaces with electronic command centers equipped with projectors and display screens. Learning commons allow students to engage socially and actively apply what they are learning. Trends in desk design show innovation in creating learning commons where desks function as a communal workspace with the ability to separate into individual desks.
Classrooms must be flexible with furniture that is moveable and reconfigurable. There are some aspects of traditional teaching that cannot be avoided such as lectures, presentations or explanation of certain concepts. The difference is this style of teaching does not have to be the entire class or every class because the room design allows for adaptable teaching environments.
New collaborative classrooms present some challenges for designers. The use of space becomes very important, as classrooms need to be versatile in use and in design. It is important for designers to work closely with educators and understand the different types of learning taking place and how it is facilitated. Interactive classrooms demand more technology and some might think this is too costly. Remember technology and software are becoming more and more affordable everyday allowing design teams to have freedom in creating multiple learning commons within the classroom.
Classroom designers are central in the learning process because they are the ones creating a flexible space that must cater to various styles of learning and teaching. No longer do we have ‘one size fits all’ learning and this requires increased innovation in classroom design. Initiatives like Design Thinking for Educators through IDEO and Architects for Humanity are doing just that by providing new approaches and resources to schools that are ready to embrace the future design of learning.