Education Talks | Learning spaces designed together


What should be
the design process for school environments? There is no general recipe
for how schools should look like. Most important is that
a school starts a discussion internally about the pedagogy and educational vision, and from their educational aims, they have to see
what seating arrangements fit with that pedagogy and how they can support
their ideals for learning and teaching. What are some examples of
architecture aligning with educational vision? In the Netherlands,
De Werkplaats, close to Utrecht, has recently built a completely
new school for secondary education, and the same holds
for the UCL Academy in London, where they also built a completely
new building for their students and teachers. And they both are aligned
to their educational vision and the pedagogy
which is mainly on project-based work, on authentic tasks, and small groups
of students supported by their teachers. So if you want
to do more project-based work and to enable group work next to
self-directed learning and using e-learning, you need different kinds of spaces
than the traditional classrooms. How can schools adapt existing spaces? It is of course ideal
if you can build a completely new environment, because that enables
all your preferences to be built in. But that is of course only possible
in a minority of the cases, so much more often schools will adapt
their existing school design, their physical spaces. Also in that process, it is important
to involve different stakeholders and see if we want to do group work,
then the current furniture does not support that, so we have to look
for maybe different furniture or arrange the furniture
differently in our classrooms. It can also be a bit bigger. If a school thinks the classrooms are too small,
too limited to do the pedagogy we want, maybe you can break a wall between rooms. How are visual tools used
in participatory school design? Especially because everyone
has his own experience and expertise, which he or she brings into the process, it is important to visualise
what we are talking about, so that we try
to create a shared mental model, a shared idea about
what the school building will look like. And we can think about different tools. They can be just simple drawings. It can and also has to be
more sophisticated later in the process, where we can use software programs
like building information modeling, BIM, which enable architects
to visualise how the building looks. Who should be involved in the process? Both schools I just mentioned,
so the UCL Academy in London and De Werkplaats in Bilthoven,
the Netherlands, involved the different stakeholders,
the teachers, the students, and the managers together with
the architects in the design phase, and they also have experienced
that this is a challenging process because all have their unique perspectives. In a recent study,
we also asked those stakeholders specifically in interdisciplinary teams to brainstorm about
how this process could best be implemented, so how to participatorily
design a school building. And we had four groups, and in each group an architect, a teacher,
a student and an educational designer. That has resulted in this interdisciplinary
model of participatory building design, and this model shows that in the different phases
of your building design process, you have the different actors,
so the different stakeholders, and they all have
a different role in each phase. So for example, when developing
your pedagogy and your educational vision, the architect will be less relevant, while if you think about how the space
will look, the architects are more dominant, while in the implementation,
they get less important again. So it is a dynamic process and that model can be a tool for practice
to plan the process and to monitor it as well.

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