I’ve been considering learning spaces. Specifically, I’ve evaluated my classroom as a learning space and pondered on the its effectiveness. What are the purposes in the current furniture placement? How is my decor helping or hindering learning? How is the technology helping students reach the curriculum and aiding in their learning? Basically, what is happening and what could help it be better?
To consider learning spaces well, one must consider recent research on what makes a learning space effective. Loris Malaguzzi said it most effectively, “There are three teachers of children: adults, other children, and their physical environment.” Malaguzzi is the the father of the early childhood education approach Reggio Emilia. Regardless of the topic and age level, the physical environment plays just as big of a role on a child’s education as the teacher does or his peers. In fact, the book The Third Teacher capitalizes on that principle and extended the concepts. Cannon Design, VS America, and Bruce Mau Design combined their efforts to write this book. They have a website, www.thethirdteacherplus.com that has many resources. Some of these resources include 79 ways you can use design to transform teaching + learning and 79 Ideas Flash Cards for transforming your own teaching and learning environment. Even among undergrads, positive perception of their classroom environment was an indirect indicator of goal adoption and improved grade performance (Church, Elliot, & Gable, 2001).
How, then, does my classroom fair? I read another article found in one of the publications from The Third Teacher that was set up as an interview with Cannon Design. The author, Wanda Dunaway, asks them 6 questions about transforming learning environments described through The Third Teacher principles. I approached this article “Inside the Inspired Learning Environment” with a question: How can I extend my understanding of classroom design to redesign my junior high math classroom to inspire students. Elements of basic classroom design I was already aware of, and ready connect with were that classrooms should have simple, yet complex decor, a good ergonomic flow, desks facing where I want students to focus, and color schemes to help them focus. I saw how the designers worked with a math teacher to improve his space to allow for their own creation where he could act as a coach.
An effective classroom must allow for students to explore and design. In this blog post, I discussed the “notice and wonder” movement in mathematics presented by Fetter. A learning space needs to allow students to notice, wonder, explore, and design. At most times during instruction, I am the main focus, not math. However, my environment must shift so most of the time I’m only a coach/small group tutor as students explore math. The challenge is in a math class if the teacher could act as a coach and do less direct instruction, allowing that interactivity.
I want to redesign my classroom to have exploring stations. With some lessons, they could explore different aspects of the underlying math at each station. There can be a technology station, calculator station, creation station, and administration station. The first two stations are self-explanitory. The creation station would be a place where students could go to extend their knowledge of the concepts being taught. The administration station is where assignments are handed in, orphaned papers are located, extra copies of worksheets are found, and so on.
An attempt at designing my ideal classroom was made with Sketch Up. It wasn’t an effective effort as the frustration/creation balance was less ideal. Objects, including the teacher, were hovering in the air. Not my shiningest work example. Main thing I learned? More frustration thank it’s worth for designing a better classroom.
All things considered, when designing an ideal learning environment, the 79 ways and 79 flashcards could be overwhelming. I am going to go through what I feel I’ve already achieved and pick 10 more this year to improve on. One such example is to make it new. Is my learning space designed with 21st century learning in mind? Otherwise,if one tried implementing all 79 at once, it could be overwhelming.
Church, M., Elliot, A., & Gable, S. (2001). Perceptions of classroom environment, achievement goals, and achievement outcomes. Journal of Educational Psychology, 93 (1). Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Shelly_Gable/publication/232504190_Perceptions_of_classroom_environment_achievement_goals_and_achievement_outcomes._Journal_of_Educational_Psychology_93_43-54/links/0046351ace0a701422000000.pdf
Dunaway, W. (2014). Inside the inspired learning environment: A conversation with Cannon Design. 2014 Neocon Showroom. Shaw Contract Group.
O’Donnell Wicklund Pigozzi and Peterson, Architects Inc., VS Furniture., & Bruce Mau Design. (2010). The third teacher: 79 ways you can use design to transform teaching & learning. New York: Abrams.
By Andrei Stroe (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons