Designing Classrooms of the Future Now!

In this article we showcase the work of three teachers in redesigning classroom learning environments to enhance student learning. Through short interview excerpts, a video, and classroom photos we feature ten design ideas they used to redesign their classrooms. In the article we also argue that despite lofty rhetoric espousing pedagogical innovation and 21st century learning, classroom design provides the most visible sign of what schools and educational leaders actually believe and value. We call for greater attention to the ways classroom spaces constrain and enable teaching and learning that can better support important 21st century educational outcomes. 

Introduction

Every year, thousands of educational studies seek to find the best methods and conditions under which students learn. As educators we are constantly looking for ways to adapt new approaches to teaching and learning and improve our teaching methods and curriculum. Many educational leaders call for classroom practice that is more student-centered, innovative, collaborative, inquiry-based or project-based, and for teachers who are empowered to help students develop 21st century competencies (e.g., see MOE, 2014).

However, school culture can often constrain or inhibit new and innovative classroom practice. Cornbleth (2001) has described different school cultures that often interfere with educational innovation or make teachers reluctant to use innovative instructional strategies. She has described these school cultures as often highly bureaucratic (emphasizing order and control), conservative (to maintain the status quo), and excessively competitive with a great deal of attention given to student testing, accountability, and school rankings. This puts teachers in a sort of double bind in which they receive conflicting messages about the need for innovation while school culture and classroom environments remain quite conservative or place an emphasis on order, accountability, and stasis (Baildon & Sim, 2009).

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An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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