THE CLASSROOM, published in 2010 features an essay "Connecting Learning and Learning Environments". Through the article, Peter Brown establishes a precedent for intertwining education and design, then illustrates ideas shaping the next generations of school design based on shifts that are occurring within the current educational landscape. The book is available from WASMUTH. This post is number two in a series of seven.
The VS school museum illustrates educational changes in the twentieth century as a response to substantial societal shifts. Population shifts from rural to urban to suburban. Economic shifts from agriculture and industry to technology and innovation. Shifts in ideals related to human rights, providing opportunities for equal educational opportunities for all people.
Ideas for school buildings have responded to these shifts with various facility models: Moving from one-room rural schools to multiroom urban schools, then to comprehensive departmental high schools created to address a surging suburban population and to develop the population for a changing workforce. Junior High Schools or “mini high schools” transformed into middle schools that address rapid changes in middle-year students.
Historically, schools have been designed as 100-year buildings, and school operation has remained static enough that buildings could meet their intended function for decades. Since the mid-1990s, a series of interjections have occurred in educational environments that has accelerated the rate of operational and related facility changes. Federal legislation in the United States now requires demonstrated academic performance of ALL students, which has created new instructional strategies designed to reach a wide spectrum of learners. Schools are being reorganized to increase connections between students, teachers, and curriculum and are often arranged into academic teams grouping a small group of students with a small group of teachers. Technologies introduced into learning environments provide increasing opportunities for students and teachers to connect with experiences outside of the classroom. This shift is changing time utilization in schools, how project work is created and delivered, and the collaborative relationship between student and teacher. The rate of operational changes in recent years are indicators that school buildings could likely change many times during the functional life of a school building.
As designers and educators work to create new scenarios that allow students to excel, school organizations continue to face a range of societal issues: measuring student performance and teaching effectiveness, funding strains for capital and operational expenditures, demonstrating ongoing community value, and preparing a workforce for a global society.
Ideas shaping the next generation of school design
The museum demonstrates the value of the close collaboration of educators, architects, and designers in creating meaningful places for teaching and learning, places that respond to ongoing societal and educational shifts. The collection establishes the importance of linking education and design in creating effective learning environments.
Looking forward – as a collective group of people responsible for shaping learning environments – what issues affecting school design belong to the current generation of educators and designers to resolve?
As emphasis is placed on student performance, teaching performance, and building performance, school organizations are under increasing pressure to deliver results. In this climate, ideas that are shaping the next generation of educational facility models respond at some level to five key questions:
- Does process and design influence our practice?
- How do schools respond to change?
- What does it mean to reach all students?
- How does digital thinking affect our thinking?
- How does stewardship affect our decisions?