Designing Classrooms of the Future Now!, pp. 2 of 11

Where we might find evidence of this emphasis on order and control is in the very structure and design of classroom learning environments. Classrooms in Singapore and many other places in the world today look much like those in the 1950’s, with desks in rows and a teacher desk at the front of the classroom. Of course, various forms of technology have been added to many classroom settings, but schools have made rather few adjustments to the sound, the lighting, the furniture or the physical layout of modern day classrooms to accommodate pedagogical and technological changes. It is hard to imagine innovative classroom practice that truly prepares young people for the kinds of living, working, and learning necessary for the 21st century taking place in these environments.

Instead, we believe it is time for “creative imagining” (McWilliam, 2010) in which school leaders and teachers utilize policy rhetoric to make a case for rethinking classroom structure and design to better support 21st education goals, innovative classroom practice, and the kinds of learning culture called for by reform efforts. Like designing lesson plans, designing learning environments depends on our aims and purposes. If we want order, control, and more of the same in education, classrooms will continue to look like they have over the past 50 years. If we truly want to prepare students for the 21st century “in which comfort with ideas and abstractions is the passport to a good job, in which creativity and innovation are the keys to the good life, in which high levels of education – a very different kind of education than most of us have had – are going to be the only security there is” (NCEE, 2007, pp. 6-7), then we would expect school cultures and classrooms to be quite different. This requires creating greater opportunities for experimentation and design, not only in lesson planning and instruction, but in the very design of the learning environments provided for students.

In this article, we consider what types of classroom setting might better support the changes in education called for by educational leaders by highlighting the work of  three teachers to re-design their physical classroom environments in hopes of creating a different culture of learning. After outlining some of the literature calling for the redesign of classrooms, we share their views and their efforts to change their classrooms as well as photos and a video to showcase their efforts. It is our hope that this will spark “creative imagining,” experimentation, and a few ideas for re-design that educators can use to transform their teaching and learning spaces. 

We shape our buildings and thereafter, they shape us. Winston Churchill

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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