Insight for schools: Trends in university learning space design, big shift from lectures to collaborative learning

For many school-based educators, one of the justifications for maintaining a traditional teacher and content focused culture is the need to prepare students for university. But what if universities are changing.

MUSE  Macquarie University

MUSE at Macquarie University

There are many examples of tertiary institutions that understand the need for change. Information, lectures and resources can be accessed online, so why would they need to come into university. The MUSE at Macquarie University (pictured) is the transformation of the former library of the 1960s into learning commons and now more students are on campus, they have a place to go.

It has been interesting to read the chapter: The Further and Higher Education Campus in Design for the changing education landscape (2014) by Andrew Harrison and Les Hutton. There is significant insight for the school education sector from what is happening at the tertiary level.

The examples in this chapter are in a process of philosophical shifts, from tutor/lecturer focused, front facing classes toward collaborative and active learning environments. The Active Learning Center at the University of Minnesota noted the difference in the behaviour of a professor in the two different learning modes. In the traditional rooms there was more lecturing and the professor remained at the lectern. The open space approach showed more discussion, movement throughout the space and greater consultation with individuals and small groups.

From: Design for the changing education landscape (2014) Andrew Harrison and Les Hutton.

Before and After at Melbourne University From: Design for the changing education landscape (2014) Andrew Harrison and Les Hutton.

The lecture theatre has limited cut-through and is increasingly inconsistent with the modes of learning that students need in the technology rich environment. It is not uncommon for students to stream lectures to their device, rather than sit in the lecture theatre. Physics lecturer, Eric Mazur realised how ineffective the lecture was for gaining knowledge and understanding. He discovered that this was better achieved through discussion and student-to-student explanation. In the article in Harvard Magazine,  Twilight of the Lecture: The trend toward “active learning” may overthrow the style of teaching that has ruled universities for 600 years, he says,

It’s no accident that most elementary schools are organised that way. The reason is, that’s how we learn. For some reason we unlearn how to learn as we progress from elementary school through middle school and high school. And in a sense, maybe I’m bringing kindergarten back to college by having people talk to each other!”

We can better prepare our students for further learning by considering these elements in the design of school, especially in terms of the three learning landscapes – physical, virtual and cultural.

The City – the campus as a learning communityManhattan and the City at NBCS

Alongside designated places for learning, we begin to see the entire campus as a learning landscape, identifying the spaces in-between. Movement areas are designed as part of the overall landscape. The balance of formal and informal settings is changing as students are required to be more self-directed. In many schools, valuable real estate is taken up by herding cattle along corridors. We can consider how these transition spaces can be exploited. Food is also important, more than just fuel, it is a catalyst for connection. But quality of the food and design of the setting matters.

Informal and Social Learning Spaces 

Primary school in Copenhagen

Primary school in Copenhagen

Mobile technology is the enabler that make informal spaces work for learning. They are usually outside the classroom, adjacent to eating and gathering spaces. Designed for both staff and student to co-locate, supporting the notion of a pervasive learning community. Social hubs are designed to suit each institution’s unique needs and culture.

Furniture Layout 2012-10-10 12.40.08 copy

Round tables encourage collaboration and quickly create a community of
learning. The students are forced to look at each other, changing the relationship amongst the classes. Allowing for different furniture types and multiple arrangements encourage collaborative and group based learning.

Libraries

A contentious subject for many schools. When learning resources are available digitally and students can almost carry a library on their device, the libraries can serve as information commons. The place where the digital learning environment can be managed. The lines are blurring between the learning commons, technology spaces, social/food spaces and information spaces. There can be sanctuaries for concentration and reflection alongside the collaborative and group settings, providing for different needs and a variety of settings for learners

TU Delft Library

What’s your metaphor?

As I explore this subject the importance of creating a metaphor for the spaces recurs. Ownership, codes of behaviour and a simple description in the shape of a metaphor can communicate the complex in a simple way. Here are some examples I recorded as I read Harrison and Hutton. What do you think they are describing?

  • City and the streets
  • Front Porch
  • Cul-de-sac
  • Den
  • Hive
  • Club
  • Cell
  • Home

No standing still

Learning is changing as society changes. Gaining knowledge and understanding in a digital and globally connected world requires a new mindset. We can stick to tried and tested ways, claim that the pendulum always swings back again, but I haven’t seen many pendulum clocks anywhere other than a museum. The world has changed and thankfully the place where learning occurs is evolving.

I know what you’re saying… if we could only just get them to clean up after themselves!

@anneknock

Design for the Changing Educational Landscape

Designing spaces for learning: 10 questions to STOP asking and 10 questions to START asking for choice, flexibility & connection

Design for the Changing Educational LandscapeCurrently I am reading Design for the Changing Educational Landscape: Space, Place and the Future of Learning (Harrison & Hutton). The book was published in 2014 and cites research and white papers dating back to the early 2000s. People were having the conversations then, the same ones that we are having now. A quote in the book is from the Design Council (UK) “Learning Environments Campaign Prospectus: From the Inside Out Looking In” (2005)

The 2005 research showed low quality, standardised and institutional classroom environments and resources are not just uninspiring, they actually:

  • reduce the range of teaching and learning styles possible and affect interaction between teacher and student
  • undermine the value placed on learning
  • fail to adapt to individual needs
  • hinder creativity
  • are inefficient
  • waste time and effort
  • cost more in the long term

Too often the imperative of the urgent and the need to meet the budget stops school leaders from stepping back to ask the right questions. So instead they default to what schools have always done, perhaps based on the expectations of parents, governors or media.

10 Questions to stop asking:

  1. What buildings do we want?
  2. How many classrooms do we need?
  3. What are the external distractions that need to be minimised?
  4. What are the subjects we need to teach?
  5. How many desks and chairs do we need?
  6. Where do we put the whiteboard?
  7. Can all the students see the teacher/whiteboard/front?
  8. Where are the noticeboards to display student work?
  9. Where do we put the teachers desk?
  10. What technology do we need today?

The Design Council paper includes this annotated photo, a snapshot in time that could be the reality in many schools today, 10 years later. What does it tell us?

From:  Learning Environments Campaign Prospectus - From the inside looking out

From: Learning Environments Campaign Prospectus – From the inside looking out

Internal decor: Standardised institutional environment lacks character and fails to complement other aspects of design

Displays: Static and scrappy displays of student work rapidly become wallpaper.

Teacher’s desk: Teacher zone supports didactic approach and mindset among teachers and pupils

Technology: When technology is not embedded within design the environment will not support ongoing flexible adaptation

Desks and arrangement of furniture

  • Middle of the class: Children not wanting to answer questions sit outside this area
  • Desks at the back: Children wanting to misbehave sit here

Light: Lack of control over light

Furniture: Inflexible desks and chairs inhibit group work and movement

In 2009, the Salford Centre for Research and Innovation in the Built and Human Environment Barrett and Zhang emphasised the link between learning and space.

Barrett and Zhang do not believe it is possible to create a plan that will work forever, however…three key issues seem to link school design with considerations of individualisation, and provide a framework within which change can take place.

These three issues are choice, flexibility and connection.

Taking the time to think ahead, to understand the learning and social needs of students and provide the learning environment that students need, there are alternative questions that can be asked:

  1. What kind of learning do we want to see?
  2. What are the learning relationships we want to encourage?
  3. How much natural light and outside inspiration can we accommodate?
  4. What tools and resources are available to us to support students’ learning?
  5. What furniture facilitate the learning environment we need?
  6. What focal points are required?
  7. Where will the variety of learning modes happen in the space?
  8. How do we share the creativity and innovation of students?
  9. How do we facilitate the storage needs for the teacher?
  10. What (do we imagine) will be our technology needs in the future?

There are probably many more, but this is a start.

@anneknock

Community Resilience: Learning from Christchurch

Enroute to Christchurch this morning I picked up a copy of TIME and read this article

Bounce back: Scientists know what some people rebound so well from setbacks. By Mandy Oaklander

The study found that factors like having a tight-knit community, a stable role model and a strong belief in their ability to solve problems helped children success.

Researchers have found that facing the things that scare you relaxes the fear circuitry, making the good first step in building resilience.

Christchurch CathedralOnce at my hotel I took the opportunity in the remaining daylight hours to walk around the city. These words about resilience kept running through my mind. How could this community bounce back after such devastation. Four years later there is both construction underway and destruction still evident. I love my own city of Sydney, and cannot imagine the trauma that the community in Christchurch experienced in 2011.

Having a strong network of social support are critical to resilience – very few highly resilient individuals are strong in and by themselves.

However, despite the evidence of the devastation that occurred, there are shoots of new growth popping up all over the city. Christchurch is calling itself a “Transitional City” with creative and fun pop-up projects.

The ReStart Mall is a great example of this using the ubiquitous shipping container to create a new shopping precinct, with cool shops, food outlets and cafes.

Pop up mall

Food trucks and caravans are scattered around.

Caravan
Quirky over-sized furniture.

Over sized furniture

Urban artworks and refurbished streetscapes.

IMG_5895

I’m here in Christchurch to work with local primary principals. Yet I can already see that there is so much to learn about building community resilience and being able to bounce back as a city. Resilience is an essential life skill. This community will take the devastation that occurred in February 2011 and will emerge with a freshness that could not have occurred otherwise.

Research shows that the way we cope with little stressors strongly predicts how we’ll do once the big stuff hits. (*Richard Davidson, Neuroscientist, University of Wisconsin)

Resilience

@anneknock

Repurposing unlikely spaces for a school: A photo essay

A school doesn’t need to be purpose-built. In Australia, the commonly held view that a new school needs to locate a greenfield site to grow a school. In other parts of the world it is more common to local a disused building, a brownfield site.

Greenfield sites have not previously been built on. This includes the greenbelt land around cities.

Brownfield sites are defined as “previously developed land” that has the potential for being redeveloped

In my travels I have visited some interesting schools. But this week my Danish and Swedish friends tweeted about a school in a disused submarine factory in Malmo, Sweden.  Mia and Jens (@LOOPbz) from Danish design consultancy LOOP, along with Colin (@EDU_Colin) from Ecophon acoustics alerted me to their adventures in a series of Tweets. So I started thinking about this one, and some of the brownfield sites that I have visited. We are heading to Europe and UK again this year (October 2015) for the SCIL Vision Tour.

Malmö Högskola

(These are photos from Colin’s Tweets)

A former submarine factory with imposing post industrial learning spaces. This media school is due to open soon.

Photo: Colin Campbell, Ecophon

Photo: Colin Campbell, Ecophon


Vittra Telefonplan – An old telephone factory in Stockholm

Vittra Telefonplan is one of 30 schools in this Swedish free school system that I visited in 2012. It is a school without walls in this former telephone factory that has created a variety of zones for different types of learning.

Design firm Rosan Bosch describes the brief for the project: When the new Vittra school “Telefonplan” was established in Stockholm, Rosan Bosch created the school’s interior design, including space distribution and distinctive custom-designed furnishings. The interior design revolves around Vittra’s educational principles and serves as an educational tool for development through everyday activities. Link to Rosan Bosch

Vittra Telefonplan


IPACA – Three schools to one campus

In 2014, after the SCIL Vision Tour, we visited the Isle of Portland, in Dorset England, with our friend, Gary Spracklen. Gary is the Director of Change and Innovation at IPACA – Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy – the group of schools on the island. The schools are in a process of change as they join and relocate in the disused maritime centre in Portland. “We want to create a small school environment within a big school setting but bring the benefits of a big school as well.” From three schools to one campus. Follow Gary @Nelkcarps to see what great work is happening at the school.

Slide1

A curious fact about the Isle of Portland: If you are ever on the Isle of Portland never say the word “rabbits”…

“Because burrowing can cause landslips in quarries, residents of Portland, Dorset, instead call the creatures underground mutton or furry things.” Accordingly, the W&G publicity will carry the alternative slogan “Something bunny is going on”.

Weymouth and Portland mayor Les Ames illuminates: “If the word rabbit is used in company in Portland there is generally a bit of a hush. In the olden days when quarrying was done by hand, if one of these animals was seen in the area, the quarryman would pack up and go home for the day – until the safety of the area had been reconnoitred. It is an unwritten rule in Portland that you do not use the word rabbit.” (From: theregister.co.uk)


Kunskapsskolan – Swedish Free School System

Since we started taking educators and architect on the SCIL Vision Tour, we have regularly visited Kunskapsskiolan, the system of around 30 school, started in 1999. The design of the schools is undertaken by Chief Architect Kenneth Gärdestad. The schools aim to be open, inviting and spacious, where most of the space is used for learning.

Kunskapsskolan’s schools are typically located in facilities which were originally built for other purposes, i.e. former office buildings, factories or shops. But the architecture, characterised by light, visibility and flexibility, does not only allow for a more effective use of space (the average amount of space per student is between 7-9 m2); it also gives rise to an open and collaborative atmosphere where the idea that every space is a learning space is omnipresent. This concept also gives schools the flexibility to adapt to changing conditions. An office converted into a school could be converted back entirely or partly if demographics or demand were to change. From OECD Report

Kunskapsskolan

The SCIL Vision Tour again this year provides a wonderful opportunity for school leaders and architects to have a first-hand experience of great school designs.

@anneknock

Happy teachers matter: Seven things school leaders can do to create the optimal culture

happy faceWhat are some of the things that make us happy in our work?

  • A sense of a job well done
  • Confidence in our abilities
  • Great people to work with
  • Feeling valued for our efforts
  • Being heard and understood

OECD ReportIn March 2015 the OECD released a report from the International Summit on the Teaching Profession: Schools for 21st Century Learners (2015) by Andreas Schleicher. It identified some good news, and some not-so-good news:

The good news: The most successful education systems are those in countries whose society values the teaching profession.

The not-so-good news: Fewer than one in three teachers believe that teaching is a valued profession in society.

“…their belief in their ability to teach, engage students and manage the classroom – has an impact on student achievement as well as teachers’ own practices enthusiasm and job satisfaction and behaviour in the classroom.”

What can school leader do to enhance teachers’ self-efficacy and job satisfaction?

Balloons

1. Distributed leadership, provides opportunities to participate in decision making at school.

2. Positive interpersonal relationships between teachers and their colleagues and teachers and their students

Good relations between teachers and their colleagues and between teachers and their students can mitigate the negative effects of challenging classrooms…”

3. Meaningful appraisal and feedback that recognises and celebrates teachers’ strengths while simultaneously challenging teachers to address weaknesses in their pedagogical practices.

4. Provide a culture of collaboration among teachers through:

    • jointly teaching the same class
    • observing and providing feedback on other teachers
    • engaging in different classes and age groups
    • professional learning

“The strongest association with teachers’ job satisfaction appears to be participating in collaborative professional learning activities five times a year or more.”

5. Applying a variety of teaching practices, from instructional to constructivist practices.

“The latter [constructivist practices] forms of teaching and learning help to develop students’ skills to manage complex situations and to learn both independently and continuously. It has also been argued that these practices enhance students’ motivation and achievement.”

6. Quality professional development. A focus on the three components of self-efficacy – classroom management, instruction and student engagement  – strengthen their confidence.

7. Capacity to positively handle misbehaving students.

Teachers who spend more time keeping order in the classroom reported lower levels of self efficacy and job satisfaction

This report reinforces what many of us know and believe. When teachers are confident in their abilities, working positively and productively with our peers (and students) and equipped for the job, we build a place where our people want to come to work everyday… because we’re happy!

@anneknock

How do you lead innovation in schools? Step 1: Unlearn some old stuff & Step 2: Learn some new stuff

School leaders – here’s a quick quiz

  • Are you prepared for disruption, mess and opposing viewpoints?
  • Do you think you can successfully challenge the status quo?
  • Can you throw out conventional approaches to leadership?
  • Will you stick to it for the long haul?

Yes? Then read on.

FullSizeRender (1)Making It Mobile is the SCIL signature workshop for educators coming up in a few weeks, held at our school in Sydney. In the practitioner strand the focus is on “teachers as designers”. Alongside this, I am facilitating a parallel workshop for leaders, but I am troubled. What if these amazing passionate teachers are inspired and are keen to innovate in their schools, only to return to the same-old leadership, where innovation needs to fit in a pre-defined box? These teachers will become discouraged and disillusioned. A new leadership paradigm is essential.

On my drive to work this morning I listened to the TEDx talk by Linda Hill: How to manage for collective creativity (Sept 2014). Linda is the professor of business administration at the Harvard Business School. She opened her talk:

FullSizeRenderI have a confession to make. I’m a business professor whose ambition has been to help people to lead. But recently, I’ve discovered that what many of us think of as great leadership does not work when it comes to leading innovation….
If we want to build organisations [schools] that can innovate time and again, we must unlearn our conventional notions of leadership.

These “conventional notions of leadership” are spelt out in the plethora of leadership literature on our actual or virtual bookshelves published over many decades. They tell us that leadership starts with a vision, it rises and falls on the leader to execute strategy and, as many leaders can testify, it is a lonely and stressful business. The prevailing culture is that “the people” look to “the leader” to tell them what to do.

There seems to be two long held beliefs that need to be challenged:

  1. The absolute leader – knows all and tells all
  2. The lowly minion – has no ideas and does what they are told by the absolute leader

Companies like Pixar and Google understand that successful innovation is not about the solo genius, in the same way leading an innovative school or organisation requires a complementary team-based approach. The innovative school needs an innovative leader who creates the environment where:

  • collaboration is the culture
  • problems are opportunities
  • team is the prevailing structure
  • the talents and passions of ‘the many’ can be unleashed
  • diversity and conflict co-exist
  • there is a village or a community

The journey of innovation has an unknown tomorrow, but it starts today with complex and compelling problems that need an answer. To navigate this future the first thing we must do is embark on that journey of unlearning.

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who can not read or write, but those who can not unlearn, learn and relearn – Alvin Toffler

@anneknock

Making it Mobile – 2 day workshop
30 April – 1 May
Northern Beaches Christian School, Sydney Australia

Innovating school: Mapping the change journey – 5 priorities identified by the OECD

According to the OECD, these are the three ingredients for innovating schools and systems:

  • Leadership: strong leaders who establish optimal conditions in their schools
  • Teachers: Confident and capable in their practice
  • Culture: An openness to innovation

Schools for 21stC Learners

OECD Report: Schools for 21st-Century Learners: Strong Leaders, Confident Teachers, Innovative Approaches (2015) by Andreas Schleicher,

This document draws from three sources: evidence from TALIS (Teaching and Learning International Survey) and PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment); and the OECD’s ILE (Innovative Learning Environments) project.

Innovating to create 21st century learning environments (Chapter 4)

Innovative Learning Environments- How do you rate on the five key criteria-

Are the environments in which student learn sufficiently innovative?

Innovation in education is not just a matter of putting more technology into more classrooms; it is about changing approaches to teaching so that students acquire the skills they need to thrive in competitive global economies. (p.63)

Preparing young people for this rapidly changing world means that they are required to be continually learning and are adaptable to change, with the commensurate set of skills and competencies.

The OECD report outlined five key areas that strong leaders need to develop in their schools:

1. Regrouping teachers

  • Collaborative planning, orchestration and professional development
  • Collaboration as a tool for sharing best practice
  • Development of professional learning communities
  • Team teaching to target specific learners within a large group
  • Enhanced visibility, to learn from one another, not hidden behind a door

2. Regrouping learners

  • Learners of different ages, encouraging diversity and enabling peer teaching
  • Smaller groups within larger groups
  • Mixing abilities in small working groups

3. Rescheduling learning

  • Flexibility of time and timetabling, fewer and longer sessions in a day
  • Move from the standard subject-based curriculum
  • Establish new routines and rituals
  • Learning outside of regular school hours – face to face and online learning options

4. Widening pedagogical repertoires

  • Inquiry-based learning, acquire knowledge while practising skills
  • Interdisciplinary learning
  • Real life and hands-on experiences
  • Technology-rich environment provides the necessary tools
  • Integrating a menu of teaching and learning options

5. Culture and policies

  • Create communities and build capacities
  • Collaborate and communicate, wider partnerships and connections
  • Create conditions conducive for innovation, strong leadership is essential
  • Ensure coherence, less top-down, more engaging those most involved with teaching and learning

What is your most pressing priority to move toward innovation?

Innovation transition


@anneknock