RETHINKING THE CLASSROOM
Think of a classroom and immediately you think of rows desks and chairs and a blackboard. We’ve come to accept that classrooms should look a certain way, and we’ve been slow to embrace any sort of change in the classroom setting.
But surely by changing the way we think about classroom design we can create spaces encourage more collaboration and creative thought.
NEW WAYS OF TEACHING
In a world where information is readily available at the touch of a button, rote learning is becoming an outdated teaching method. There is less emphasis in the classroom on children memorising lists of facts, and instead we’re teaching children skills that will help them reason, think and generate their own ideas.
One of the key skills that teaching now focuses on is collaboration. Children working together to come up with ideas and answers, and to share knowledge within a group environment.
Problem solving and critical thinking will become key abilities that children will need in the future, and new ways of teaching help to encourage children to develop these skills. In forward-thinking classrooms you’ll find that group discussions are become just as important as teacher-led lectures.
To fully embrace this new way of teaching, we need to look at the way we design our classrooms so that they can help children collaborate and co-operate.
WHAT IS A MODERN LEARNING ENVIRONMENT?
In a modern learning environment you won’t find typical rows of desks and chairs. Instead the classroom is transformed into a more open environment that is geared towards collaboration.
Flexible furniture is important in a modern learning environment: desks on wheels can quickly be paired to create small groups, or put together to create bigger ones. They can be easily moved out of the way completely so students can work on the floor. Traditional chairs are sometimes replaced with stackable stools, ottomans or even beanbags and balance balls. Students will often have a choice of where and how they would like to sit. By giving students control over their learning environment, you empower them to take charge of their learning journey.
Modern classrooms will also be equipped with technology that can aide learning. Wifi connectivity, iPads, smart-boards, speakers and enhanced AV technology help students to access information themselves and immediately research different ideas.
DESIGNING A BETTER CLASSROOM
Modern classrooms designed from the ground up can do even more to incorporate the modern learning environment.
Architects and interior designers can look at elements like acoustics, which are very important to creating a space that isn’t overwhelming and noisy.
Natural light is another important element to consider. The more natural light that flows into a classroom the better. Using large windows and even skylights can create a space where children feel energised and ready to learn.
Circular pods and nooks on the sides of the classrooms are great for offering children break-away spaces where they can sit quietly and study or read.
Incorporating sinks, plug points and data points can help make the space more multi-purpose. Art projects and science experiments can easily be done in the classroom if they are properly equipped.
Sliding glass walls between classrooms offer teachers many options, allowing them to create a large collaborative space, or a more intimate learning environment.
Comfort is key – children struggle to concentrate and learn if they are uncomfortable, so seating shouldn’t be hard and unwelcoming.
Even colours should be carefully considered in a classroom. Bright reds and oranges might encourage energy and vibrancy, but they can be overstimulating for some students. It is best to have a calming and neutral colour on the walls like light blues and greens. But bright colours on pieces of furniture can add an element of fun. Yellow is actually a good colour for chairs as it energises and encourages happiness. Reds and oranges can be used sparingly to draw attention and encourage focus.
WHERE TO START – MODERN CLASSROOM SEATING
When incorporating a modern learning environment into an existing school, it’s not usually possible completely reinvent an existing classroom. But a good place to start would be the classroom seating. Taking out uncomfortable seats and replacing them with a range of different seating options can go a long way to creating a better classroom environment. Stackable chairs work well to unclutter a classroom. Curved benches that can be arranged in a circle or in a snake like line offer versatility. And comfortable communal seating areas without desks are great for reading and relaxing.