School leaders are looking for fresh ways to engage students in their learning. Engaged students are more likely to grow the essential skills needed beyond high school to be both college and career ready. Coupling engagement with a deeper, more active learning requires new skills for teachers and leaders and teaching environments that allow for both to happen more often. Many leaders are seeing the opportunity to redesign learning spaces as a way to make these possibilities come to life.
My co-authors and I have recently outlined a path for schools to begin this redesign. Redesigning Learning Spaces provides a blueprint on how to reshape classrooms and culture to maximize the type of learning that all kids need. Below are five tips for how leaders can lead these needed changes.
Amplify Student Voice.
Schools have too often been places where adults solve the problems that students have, yet the students may have greater insight to the issues and potentially a more robust solutions. Allow students to be in the center of the work around learning space design and learn about the way that they want to learn.
Make Redesign a Community Effort
New learning spaces don’t have to break the bank. Work with teachers, parents, and community members to add the right mix of comfortable seating, natural light, plants, and new surfaces for learning. It is amazing how many useable items are sitting in a garages or basements. This collaborative effort also provides time and space to explain the importance of this work beyond the school walls.
Avoid Turning Classrooms into Random Collections of Stuff
The intentionality of redesigning learning spaces is essential. More isn’t more. The free, open space in classrooms is often as important as adding new items. Every piece of furniture should be an intentional decision with less as more always being the winner on tough calls. There are too many classrooms that already look like an episode of Hoarders.
Model the Changes in Other Spaces
As leaders, it is essential to model the changes in other spaces. This could mean the cafeteria, hallways, offices, etc. Doing this begins to speak into the importance of the work to reenergize the school with the space that surrounds teachers and students as well as it gives teachers and students ideas for reshaping their classrooms. The entire school supports deeper learning, and the entire school should be on the table for redesign.
Redesigning learning spaces is an opportunity to bring fun, energy, and creativity to the forefront. Allow the process to be fun. Set up a fun way for teachers to showcase their changes. Celebrate the new ways of learning that are emerging from this work. Let the community see the fruits of your labors. Learning should be fun and exciting, and the right coats of paints, the right lighting, and the right changes can really ignite a school to new places.