Classroom vs. the Dynamic Teaching Space

A Perspective from Europe

The Future of the Physical Learning Environment: School Facilities that Support the User is a paper published by Marko Kuuskorpi and Nuria Cabellos González both teachers and education researchers from Europe. Given rise to an urgent need for a new generation of facilities to cater to 21st century teaching and learning needs, the pair explored and documented their conclusions of a study that focused on what the future of the physical learning environment would look like.

This study, carried out in collaboration with schools in six European countries over a three-year period, explores what tomorrow’s physical learning environments will be like. The study, which stemmed from a project entitled Forum for the Future and which was funded by the Finnish National Board of Education (FNBE), was designed to contribute to the quality of education and to promote new methods, networks and tools, both locally and globally.

Information on users’ and school authorities’ perceptions was collected from the six countries using different methods: 250 14- and 15-year-old students from the six participating countries were invited to design their ideal model classroom, using a 1:50 scale and including a specific set of furniture and equipment. Students were asked to arrange the furniture to suit their learning needs and according to how they would like tomorrow’s classroom to be configured; they were also asked to suggest alternative space solutions. In addition, 65 teachers completed questionnaires and 35 administrative school authorities were interviewed. The study also took into consideration the views of different expert groups.

The study resulted in the creation of a model that is flexible, modifiable, and sustainable while supporting the teaching and learning processes. A learning space that supports teaching and learning operations, while demonstrating flexibility, sustainability and modifiability. Moving from the traditional classroom space to a dynamic teaching space.

A Dynamic Teaching Space Concept


Source: The Future of the Physical Learning Environment: School Facilities That Support the User

The author’s note that future technological advances and developments in social networks and media, as well as different teaching and learning methods, will undoubtedly require dynamic teaching spaces. The design of the proposed model takes these factors into account: the carefully conceived flexible layout and furniture arrangement facilitates individual, pair and group work methods.

The study respondents perceived the traditional classroom as a passive area, which hindered the full use of space. They associated dynamic teaching spaces with flexibility and the possibility of creating different furniture configurations. The latter can be achieved by ensuring that furniture is mobile and that there is free and easy access to information technology.

Kuuskorpi and González go on to say that the study participants did not decry the traditional classroom, but they called for additional spaces of different sizes in optimal locations to support teaching and learning processes offering various possibilities for learning to take place: ranging from individual study to large group activities. They should also support teacher coaching and individual work.

The authors believe that flexibility fosters new types of teaching and learning, which are determined by the demands of the subject or activity. To be successful, the sustainable physical learning environment needs to be equipped with both modular workstations and areas with comfortable seating, which contribute to support individual learning. It should be possible to adapt the furniture to different configurations. Similarly, as teaching and information technology tools facilitate flexible teaching, it should be easy to displace equipment and wireless terminals according to different subjects and work methods. The key operational elements of the teaching space are illustrated in the table below.

Key Operational Elements of the Teaching Space

Source: The Future of the Physical Learning Environment: School Facilities That Support the User

If a school provides a quality environment for students, this will facilitate the acquisition of skills that are important for society. The choice of equipment is important: it should be versatile, resistant, durable and easy to repair. User-based innovative processes should be at the heart of designing the physical learning environment of tomorrow’s schools. This process should take into account the global needs of students, teachers, school administrators and the community, while respecting the environment. A judicious selection of products and services that minimizes negative environmental impacts will also be of benefit to all.

Read the full report: The Future of the Physical Learning Environment: School Facilities That Support the User 

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