Monday, January 9, 2017

Transforming Learning Space

Through our discussions with staff, students and parents about transforming our learning space at Beaver Dam High School, I received the article below.  The author presents 20 questions educators should ask when designing learning space.  I propose the 20 questions are appropriate for anyone that organizes a classroom, media center, breakout space or other student learning area.  Steven Weber, Superintendent in Fayetteville, Arkansas is the author.  The article was originally published on ASCD's professional networking community for educators website at in December, 2016.

Transforming Learning Space:  20 Questions Educators Should Ask

All students deserve a learning space, not a classroom. As teachers and administrators continue to transform learning spaces, they could learn a lot about classroom design by visiting a playground, children’s museum, or public library. When you observe students on a playground, you will see collaboration, communication, critical thinking, teamwork, problem solving, citizenship, innovation, and community. We need more academic playgrounds. If teachers and administrators took time to reflect on the importance of design, purpose, and space, they may find that the old structure is a barrier to student achievement.
20 Questions To Ask About Learning Space:  
1.  Does the current space support the learning goals?
2.  How does the space encourage collaboration and communication skills?
3.  Where can students brainstorm and develop their own ideas?
4.  How does the lighting impact teaching and learning?
5.  Does the learning space influence student voice and student choice?
6.  Is the space age appropriate?
7.  Do students have multiple seating options?
8.  Are the walls used for “Learning Walls” or simply posters from college and pro sports teams?
9.  How will students interact with technology in the learning space?
10. Can students work in isolation or are they required to work in a group at every seating arrangement?
11. Does the learning space provide students with opportunities to contribute?
12. Does the learning space encourage compliance over student contribution?
13. Does the space take into account the varied abilities or all students?
14. Is the space designed so students can brainstorm and write on the floor, walls, and/or desks?
15. Does the space encourage student innovation?
16. Does the space tap into students’ natural curiosity and imagination?
17. Is there a sound system to enhance student learning and opportunities to connect with multimedia?
18. Does the space encourage formative/ongoing assessment?
19. Is the space designed for project based learning?
20. Have you asked the students what the learning space would look like if they were the architect(s)?
Once you design a space that meets the students' needs and preferences, you may be surprised at the change in student performance. When you are blogging or reading the news at home, do you put your feet up in a chair? Do you drink a cup of coffee and sit on the back porch? We do our best thinking when we are relaxed. Students can collaborate, communicate, create, and think critically in inspiring learning spaces.
Too often, teachers and administrators see a trendy classroom on Pinterest. The goal should be to design learning spaces that meet the needs of today’s learners, not to purchase bright colored bean bags, neon colored paint, rocking chairs, and lava lamps. Learning space is often overlooked in education. When teacher teams begin to ask these questions, they will reflect on the learning goals and ways to support student understanding, rather than transforming a traditional classroom into a trendy classroom.

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