Progressive classrooms

CID speaks with industry experts to study the recent developments stirring in the education sector

There is a Chinese proverb that says: “Do not confine your children to your learning for they were born in another time.” Education is slowly shifting from the traditional style we are all familiar with to incorporate different styles, a major one being interactive learning. And with this gradual transformation comes the need to adapt the learning environment itself.

“The traditional classroom layout of 20 to 30 pupils is becoming a thing of the past,” says Kathryn Brown, senior interior designer, Godwin Austin Jonson (GAJ). “With configuration and sizes varying throughout the day, we believe that space should be flexible with moveable walls to create large spaces for several classes together, combined with smaller separate areas for private study [sessions] or small groups.”

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Technology is also playing a major role in this radical shift of education facilities, aiding in the innovative learning technique entitled “active learning”. According to Brown, the new development in internet technology makes remote working an option.

Speaking of present day universities, Eric Pelliser, Steelcase’s strategic account manager of higher education in the Middle East, comments that the changes taking place on campuses are extraordinary.

“Amidst all the changes in education, both educators and designers of learning spaces are rethinking classrooms, libraries, hallways, common areas and others in between. Learning spaces must now incorporate user-friendly technology, flexible furniture and other new tools that support active learning.”

He continues: “When space, furniture and technology readily adapt to the pedagogies and learning styles of each semester, and the classroom effectively supports how instructors teach and students learn, classroom planners and designers [will] have made a significant contribution to the educational process.”

Drawing up a list of requirements to ensure active learning in new educational environments, Pelliser explains the important ideas a new learning space should integrate.

“A hard working learning space [should] support fluid transitions between multiple teaching modalities- from passive to active and back; allow freedom of movement for the instructor to visit peer groups; [be] designed for sharing, leveraging both vertical and horizontal surfaces for display using projection and interactive surfaces [as well as] have zones for assessment and mentoring.”

His list continues to include the importance of new media including personal and in-room technology, offering equal access to information; a design that provides visual and physical access, giving every student “the best seat in the house” while allowing the instructor and student access to one other, and ultimately, allowing classrooms the ability to adapt to different users and varying class requirements.

Steelcase offers a variety of furniture that allows these crucial elements to exist including Verb, an eco-system for active learning featuring an integrated mobile collection of classroom furniture. There’s also the Node, designed for quick and easy transitions from one teaching mode to another.

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