10 ways to consider your learning space…

It began during a PYP workshop in Melbourne last week, where we used Ron Ritchhart’s 8 cultural forces as a lens to explore how we might create a culture of creativity.

As participants considered various images of learning spaces, their own and others’, including some beautiful, inviting Reggio environments we generated a list of questions, such as these:

  1. Does the learning space reflect what you say you value about learning?
  2. Is the space visually appealing? Does it invite learning?
  3. What kind of culture does the learning space suggest?
  4. What is the role of colour? Is there too much ‘visual noise’?
  5. What role do the learners play in deciding how the space is organised?
  6. Has the purpose of everything you post on the walls been carefully considered?
  7. How is students’ thinking made visible?
  8. How is natural light maximised? (I really did hear a story of a teacher who put up curtains so that children would not look outside and be distracted!)
  9. What clutter can you get rid of? (Now.)
  10. MOST importantly: How is the space organised to foster things like: independence, collaboration, agency, creativity, movement and thinking?
The original version!


10 ways to think about your learning space…

We’re moving into a brand new school building in 2011, which will mean exciting opportunities for change. (More about that later). Meanwhile I have started to think about what to take. Here’s my current thinking…

Moving on

The latest in the series isn’t quite 10 ways, but rather 10 questions to ask yourself when setting up your class:

1.  Who owns the learning?

If the teacher controls all learning in this room, the desks will need to face the front. If you want your students to take responsibility for their own learning, they won’t need to face the teacher.

2. What’s more important, collaboration or quiet?

If you value real collaboration above silence, the students will need to sit in groups (ideally not more than four to each group), to facilitate conversation, cooperation and collaboration.

3. Does every learner have to do the same thing at the same time?

If not, your learning space will have areas for different kinds of learning to take place simultaneously. Places for a small group to sit. Place to gather round a computer or sit with laptops. Places to share learning. A place to work on your own.

4. How is meaning constructed?

If you believe that people need to talk through things, bounce ideas off each other, ask and answer provocative questions in order to construct meaning, your students will need to sit in groups.

5.  Do I value a culture of thinking?

Again, tables will need to be grouped. You’ll need a display space to make the process and development of thinking visible. Powerful central ideas and essential questions will need to be visible to promote and sustain higher order thinking and engagement.

6.  How can I promote inquiry?

Early years teachers do this best. They have tables with objects and artifacts that get kids interested. We can do it with older learners too. Use powerful pictures. Create a ‘Wonder Wall’ where students’ wonderings are on display. Post kids’ questions on the wall for others to think about.

7. Why is this on the wall?

Anything on your display boards or walls should be there for a reason related to the learning.  Don’t hang it up just because it’s pretty, or because you always have or to fill a space. Take it down if it’s old and no longer relevant. Keep it up if students can refer back to it, to make connections between new and prior learning.

8. Do I need it?

Clutter can hinder learning. If you haven’t looked at it in the past year, you probably don’t need it! Less stuff means more learning space. Less furniture means more flexibility, more space to move around. Throw it out!

9. Does learning only happen in the classroom?

If you don’t believe learning is limited to the classroom, you can  ‘flatten the classroom walls’ and bring the world in. Download Skype so that your class can communicate with people around the globe.

10. This one’s yours…

When I first started blogging, a friend warned me to take care not to write in a know-it-all style. Readers don’t like preachers, he told me. It sounded reasonable to me. And now here I am writing the 10 ways series, in which it might sound as if I am doing exactly what he cautioned against. I hope not! In reality, I am putting forward my ideas, pulled together from experience, my own learning, sharing with colleagues, reading and thinking about what others write. What I really want is for others to add their own thinking and challenge mine, collaborate with me on creating something bigger and better, each time…

It’s not too late to add to these:

Series of posts on ’10 Ways …’ #6

10 ways to encourage students to take responsibility for their learning

10 ways to foster a love of learning

10 ways to create a culture of thinking

10 ways to grow as an educator

10 ways my thinking has changed