Architecture & Design, Education, and Real Estate

Creating classrooms that empower student learning

September 30, 2018
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Personalized learning is making its way into today’s classroom, with many schools looking for ways to support the unique and diverse learning needs of students. Schools can support personalized learning by both designing classrooms and incorporating furniture that fuel creativity, offer flexibility and empower students to do their best learning.

Well-designed classrooms and learning spaces should offer opportunities for meaningful learning and care for the needs of students and teachers. This isn’t just about new construction, either; even decades-old school buildings can be updated to empower student learning. Here are some classroom and learning space design ideas that encourage students to do their best learning.

Re-think underutilized space

Many school buildings aren’t tapping into unused space that could be used for learning. Whether it’s an empty hallway or classroom, these spaces can be converted into innovative learning spaces. For example, we worked with Kentwood Public Schools to transform a former underutilized open space into a new collaboration center for students offering a variety of seating and work spaces.

Do an assessment of your school buildings and take note of spaces that aren’t reaching their full potential, and pay attention to how students, teachers and staff engage with different spaces. For example, if your media center is often used by students for group projects, there could be an opportunity to transform an area into a designated collaboration center while maintaining quiet nooks for studying and reading time.

Use flexible furniture

Physical space can greatly impact student learning, according to Steelcase research. Educators of the past didn’t always think about the positive effects of offering standing desks or making lounge seating available to students in the classroom.

Today, it’s important to design classrooms that support a range of learning environments. For example, flexible tables that easily can be moved around can make it convenient for teachers to rearrange classrooms for group projects and break-out sessions. In one case, we worked with FlexTech High School, located in Shepherd, Michigan, to incorporate flexible furniture to support a project-based learning model. FlexTech’s classrooms are equipped with tables and chairs that can be quickly rearranged, adding more time for instruction and hands-on learning.

Give students choices

Giving students choices empowers their learning and keeps them engaged. All students have unique learning styles and by providing a variety of spaces, students can be empowered to choose the environment that best fits how they like to learn. For example, offering small and quiet heads-down nooks can encourage students to read, while offering large project labs can fuel collaboration.

School leaders and teachers have to think about offering spaces that support collaboration, thinking, creating and quiet time. Classrooms need to be agile and have the ability to meet the needs of students as they grow and develop. Incorporating these ideas into classroom design can help bring out the best in students and create an environment that promotes engaged learning.