This week in CEP811, we are learning how classroom design and functionality impacts students’ ability to learn and grow. In recent years there has been a push to take a more human-centered approach when designing a space, and this involves gaining empathy for the users of the space. When considering a classroom, for instance, the purpose of education and the process by which students learn must be taken into consideration. Jean Piaget, famous for his work on cognitive development and the constructivist theory of learning, said “the principal goal of education is to create [students] who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done––[students] who are creative, inventive, and discoverers” (as cited in The Third Teacher, 2010). Therefore from this perspective, classrooms should invite students to discover the world around them and to create projects that are exciting and meaningful to them. With this information, along with my knowledge on 21st Century learning, I set out to analyze my current classroom design then re-imagine it to be more conducive to making, innovating, and learning.
First, I gathered a bit more information pertaining to classroom design. A study done in 2013 found that “Six design parameters–color, choice, complexity, flexibility, connection, and light–had a significant effect on learning” (Barret et al., 2013 as cited in Vanhemert, 2013). Furthermore, classrooms should be flexible, adaptive, and be able to “foster a range of active learning strategies” (Murphy & Gardner, 2019). My current classroom design, as seen below, does incorporate some of these criteria, but it could be better. For instance, my seating is somewhat flexible since the chairs and desks can be moved around depending on what is needed for our current project; however, it does not have different styles of seating such as bean bags or stools that might be more comfortable for students. Also, the current design does foster a range of active learning strategies such as group work, space for centers and movement, and an area for small group work at my desk; however, we currently do not have a class-set of computers that allows for daily use of technology. These two areas, flexible seating and a broader range of learning strategies, drove the bulk of my re-imagined design along with a few other pertinent adjustments.
My re-imagined space (seen below) is located in my new classroom assignment for next year. Although it does not have windows for natural light, I will be given 12-15 desktops which will greatly broaden my range of learning strategies and allow for more frequent use of technology with my students. I chose to situated these around the perimeter of the room to allow for movable, flexible space in the center of the room. Also, instead of a teacher desk, I opted for a large dining room table with stools that can serve as both a small-group or collaborative station. With these three different spaces, I can more easily create a blended learning environment for different styles of work. I also want to make the space more conducive to collaboration and creation by having more supplies readily available to the students in the cabinets. I envision my new cabinets as well stocked (with tools such as markers, colored pencils, giant post-its, etc.), labeled, and free for student use.
The last thing I re-imagined is the amount of visual stimuli on my walls. The same study conducted in 2013 found that “cool, bright colours seemed best” for younger students (such as my sixth graders) and that “too many things to look at seemed to inhibit learning” (Shack 2020). I currently have many posters with a lot of color and a lot of information. Although I enjoy all the color and information, I want to be empathetic to my students and only include displays that will support them. Therefore, I want to streamline the colors in my room and rotate my posters to coordinate with our current unit of study.
Shack, K. (2020). 7.4 Explore Experience Design [Course Page]. Retrieved from Michigan State University CEP 811 D2L site.
Murphy, D. and Gardner, G. (2019, January 5). Function Follows Form: How Two Colleges Redesigned the Classroom for Active Learning. EdSurge. https://www.edsurge.com/news/2019-01-05-function-follows-form-how-two-colleges-redesigned-the-classroom-for-active-learning?utm_source=EdSurgeEdsChoice&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=02-05-2018&mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiTWpJeVlqQTFaV0ZqTURJeiIsInQiOiJSR250ZDhXRDNOZDF5T0VJNlh6OUZRbmFINFhReDE0XC9ibVhrWHlRWDlnXC9QOG5QXC9KYUR6NGQ4cnpiRlwvWlhTZGlWR0pVMjNlQktXSUZtelBIS0FkYllQU3pwQWdZbjRRa2s4Y09wdkJWTk05S2VOWWltNUxYaGQ5c3pZQjlGSXMifQ%3d%3d
The Third Teacher. (2010). Chapter 2: Minds at Work. Cannon Design. https://catharinesiemens.files.wordpress.com/2020/04/0fb40-ch2tttforweb.pdf
Vanhemert, K. (2013, January 18). Study Shows How Classroom Design Affects Student Learning. Fast Company https://www.fastcompany.com/1671627/study-shows-how-classroom-design-affects-student-learning