Designing Classrooms of the Future Now!, pp. 4 of 11

For example, consider the ways your own classroom environment might enable or constrain particular kinds of classroom practice. Nair and Fielding (2005) outline 18 Learning Modalities that can help us think about the relationship between physical learning environments and different kinds of learning opportunities:

  1. Independent study
  2. Peer tutoring
  3. Team collaborative work in small and mid-size groups (2–6 students)
  4. One-on-one learning with the teacher
  5. Lecture format with the teacher or outside expert at center stage
  6. Project-based learning
  7. Technology-based learning with mobile computers
  8. Distance learning
  9. Research via the Internet with wireless networking
  10. Student presentations
  11. Performance and music-based learning
  12. Seminar-style instruction
  13. Community service learning
  14. Naturalist learning
  15. Social/emotional learning
  16. Art-based learning
  17. Storytelling (floor seating)
  18. Learning by building—hands on learning

To what extent or in what ways does your classroom support, enable or make difficult (constrain) possibilities for these forms of learning? This question encourages us to think about how classrooms might be more flexibly designed to support these different learning modalities. If we want to promote the kind of epistemological agility called for by 21st century educational outcomes, can we envision more flexibly designed classrooms to support such teaching and learning?

Three Teachers Who Became Designers

Indeed, the three teachers interviewed for this article were influenced by some of the ideas noted above and began with the idea that the environment can serve as a “third teacher” in classrooms. Specifically, they each had read and were influenced by The Third Teacher: 79 Ways You Can Use Design to Transform Teaching and Learning and have used several key concepts taken from this book to guide their thinking and design efforts.

The three teachers we interviewed teach at the Singapore American School and are trying out new classroom designs with their students. Rindi Baildon and Alice Early team teach all subjects with 4th Grade students and Kate Bucknall teaches 7th Grade students in Reading and Language Arts. Full disclosure: Rindi and Kate are our spouses.

All three teachers have taught for over twenty years in American, British and international schools around the world. Their students are diverse, coming from all five continents. We organized their ideas and photos from their classrooms around ten key design ideas that are suggested by The Third Teacher and that we see in their classrooms. Our intention is to showcase their thinking as well as their classrooms through brief interview excerpts and images.

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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