Our lead designers Group2 have designed over 150+ new schools in western Canada. This experience has heightened their awareness of the integral relationship between design, educational delivery, and learning outcomes. Recent work has evolved to develop strong processes to engage students (learners) in the design process. This allows the team to not only connect with the future users but to also understand their specific learning needs before educational pedagogy has reacted to the changes in the learners. Key to this process is recognizing the importance of building educational environments that not only effectively support educators and students of all ages today but can be flexible enough to respond to future research and evolution in 21st Century Learning.
21st Century Learning
21st-century learning represents a range of competencies required by students to succeed in work, life, and citizenship. As learning increasingly takes place in a range of environments, the traditional classroom no longer provides the variety of learning settings necessary to successfully support different learning modalities, collaborative teaching, active and passive learning zones, and project-based learning. To achieve 21st-century learning objectives, an educational design should respond to the following best practices:
- Support a variety of learning styles;
- Enhance learning through integrated technology;
- Foster a ‘small school’ culture;
- Support a neighborhood feel;
- Create schools as centre of the community;
- Engage the public in the planning process;
- Prioritize flexible learning spaces;
- Consider non-traditional options for learning.
21st Century Learning Model
The diagrams shown here illustrate discussions around the reconfiguration of traditional classrooms to allow for greater flexibility and engagement in curriculum delivery. The first step was to challenge the traditionally held notion that a single teacher remains in a dedicated room with thirty students. Once reconfiguration of teachers, staff, students, and teaching spaces is considered as a primary focus, numerous re-configurations become possible within the allotted area for the school program.
21st Century Learning redefines the relationship of teachers to students, teachers to teachers and students to students. Traditional groupings evolve with students learning through PBL or with stronger students mentoring other students. During a recent post-occupancy tour of Diamond Willow School, several educators commented on the positive impact of design on teaching.
“I spend 25% less time on prep because we teach together. I focus on some things, other team members do as well. I have found I now get to support some of the struggling students and I focus on the better more engaging lesson. I am two years away from retirement and having the most fun of my career.” Teacher – Primary Pod
The world is changing, and so is education. Educators are striving to provide more real-world, hands-on, engaging learning opportunities for students. As they do so, they need flexible learning spaces that allow varying degrees of collaboration: large gathering spaces, smaller spaces that can be expanded or divided given the context, and small break-out rooms.