Build­ing Learn­ing Through De­sign

School plan­ners and ar­chi­tects need to talk more with teach­ers and stu­dents so that they cre­ate learn­ing spa­ces that stim­u­late the brain, cre­ate move­ment, of­fer choice, and mo­ti­vate learn­ers.

The Australian Education Reporter - - ARE SCHOOLS GETTING OVERCROWDED? - LIONEL CRA­NEN­BURGH

SCHOOL build­ing de­signs in Aus­tralia do not im­prove teach­ing or learn­ing when poorly planned, ac­cord­ing to an in­ter­na­tional school de­signer.

Peter Lipp­man is a school de­signer, ed­u­ca­tion fac­ulty plan­ner, re­searcher and ed­u­ca­tor who has de­signed schools in the US, Europe and Aus­tralia.

His book, Ev­i­dence-based De­sign of El­e­men­tary and Sec­ondary Schools sug­gests plan­ners and ar­chi­tects need to un­der­stand and ap­ply ed­u­ca­tional the­ory.

“Our learn­ing spa­ces don’t just need desks and chairs be­cause it is an en­vi­ron­ment that is owned and shared by teach­ers and stu­dents,” Mr Lipp­man said.

“We need to look at our class­room cor­ners and de­sign dif­fer­ent zones to re­flect the va­ri­ety of ways in which peo­ple learn.”

Class­rooms could be im­proved if stu­dents had a fo­cal point where they could have dis­cus­sions in a large group and zones where they could prac­tise a range of dif­fer­ent ac­tiv­i­ties.

“Emo­tion­ally, it helps to build [a stu­dent’s] iden­tity so that they can dis­play their ideas and peers can see what they’re do­ing and grow at the same time,” Mr Lipp­man said.

Lipp­man claims that fol­low­ing trends like ‘open plan’ schools in the US and Aus­tralia led school-de­sign­ers to copy ‘nor­ma­tive’ or his­tor­i­cal prac­tice, in­stead of us­ing ev­i­dence gained from re­search and ed­u­ca­tional the­ory to de­sign learn­ing spa­ces.

“SUS­TAIN­ABIL­ITY IS ABOUT DE­SIGN­ING LEARN­ING AR­EAS THAT IN­TE­GRATE WITH THE CUR­RICU­LUM SO THAT THE EN­VI­RON­MENT BE­COMES A TOOL FOR LEARN­ING.”

“Part of the prob­lem with open spa­ces is that you have acous­tic prob­lems and stu­dents and teach­ers get lost be­cause they don’t have smaller spa­ces where they can work re­flec­tively,” Mr Lipp­man said.

“School de­sign­ers need to un­der­stand learn­ing the­ory, re­search the en­vi­ron­ment, and talk to teach­ers to find out what works.”

Twenty-first cen­tury learn­ing and the Aus­tralian cur­ricu­lum en­cour­age schools to use tech­nol­ogy and ex­per­i­ment with STEM or STEAM.

Mr Lipp­man said schools should re­spond by plan­ning tech­nol­ogy use through in­te­gra­tion with the furniture, acous­tics, and other me­chan­i­cal sys­tems at the out­set – and not treat it as an af­ter-thought.

Link­ing tech­nol­ogy in an in­te­grated way with the en­vi­ron­ment, ac­tions, mo­ti­va­tors and oper­a­tions cre­ated places where chil­dren wanted to learn.

The Aus­tralian Cur­ricu­lum and As­sess­ment Re­port­ing Author­ity (ACARA) gives sus­tain­able ed­u­ca­tion pri­or­ity, re­quir­ing teach­ers to bed its con­tent in ev­ery cur­ricu­lum sub­ject.

Teach­ers must en­cour­age a fu­ture-fo­cused ap­proach, giv­ing stu­dents an op­por­tu­nity to de­velop the knowl­edge skills and abil­i­ties to in­ter­act with each other and the en­vi­ron­ment.

“Sus­tain­abil­ity is about de­sign­ing learn­ing ar­eas that in­te­grate with the cur­ricu­lum so that the en­vi­ron­ment be­comes a tool for learn­ing,” Mr Lipp­man said.

“A build­ing needs to in­clude the wider com­mu­nity so that chil­dren can learn about the lo­cal birds and an­i­mals while in­ter­act­ing with their com­mu­nity.”

Mak­ing changes to learn­ing spa­ces that stim­u­lated learn­ing did not need a big bud­get or com­plete make-over with costly new furniture.

Mr Lipp­man’s ad­vice to schools is to “try be­fore you buy” by ob­tain­ing old furniture and test­ing it to see if an idea works.

When work­ing with a school in Swe­den, Mr Lipp­man had staff ob­tain old furniture to ob­serve how it suited the learn­ing styles of stu­dents be­fore they pur­chased new furniture.

He found that when plan­ning a ‘break-out’ zone, schools needed to in­te­grate stu­dents’ learn­ing out­side with what was done in the class­room.

Break-out zones should be crafted to in­cor­po­rate brain the­ory, stim­u­late learn­ing and be places where chil­dren could en­gage with na­ture, individually or in groups, with the teacher as a fa­cil­i­ta­tor.

“We need to ask what dif­fer­ent ac­tiv­i­ties are go­ing to oc­cur be­tween th­ese zones and open up the space so that peo­ple can move be­tween spa­ces easily while ob­serv­ing oth­ers,” Mr Lipp­man said.

“SCHOOL DE­SIGN­ERS NEED TO UN­DER­STAND LEARN­ING THE­ORY, RE­SEARCH THE EN­VI­RON­MENT, AND TALK TO TEACH­ERS TO FIND OUT WHAT WORKS.”

He said that teach­ers could learn from schools that had de­signed break-out zones, such as Yule Brook Col­lege in Madding­ton, WA.

Yule Brook Col­lege As­so­ciate Prin­ci­pal Doug Dearle said Mr Lipp­man had re­designed a for­mer unin­spir­ing class­room into a multi-pur­pose zone with break-out ar­eas that in­te­grated per­fectly with its Big Pic­ture Ed­u­ca­tion vi­sion.

“The staff love the op­por­tu­nity that it gives them to use it for pro­fes­sional learn­ing, cur­ricu­lum plan­ning, stu­dent break-out learn­ing and other ac­tiv­i­ties,” Mr Dearle said.

He said that the col­lege’s planned in­te­gra­tion of en­vi­ron­ment and cur­ricu­lum cre­ated na­tional in­ter­est when par­tic­i­pants at the 2016 Big Pic­ture Ed­u­ca­tion Na­tional Con­fer­ence held in Perth vis­ited the cam­pus to see the new ap­proach.

Peter Lipp­man has de­signed schools in the US, Europe and Aus­tralia.

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