The New Learning Environment: Student Focused, Student Approved
When we embark on a new project, the aim is to gather feedback from key stakeholders and multiple user groups to ensure our design meets the needs of our client. Arguably, one of the most important voices is that of the end user, or the student.
Over the past decade we’ve seen a shift in the types of spaces students prefer. At the onset of every project we ask the simple question “how do you learn best?” and we continually hear three common factors that can be creatively weaved into our final design solution.
- Variety. Students learn in a number of different ways that require various and flexible spaces to support them. A one-size fits all approach that assumes students all learn the same way is no longer sufficient. Spaces that range in size, shape, color, volume, and privacy all provide students with a voice and choice in selecting the right space for their assigned activity.
- Doing. Many students favor learning by doing. The desire to move away from lecture-based instruction towards a hands-on learning approach is a common thread among today’s students. Learning becomes memorable when it becomes active, and therefore the learning environment must support this constructivist approach. Maker spaces, fab-labs, and hackable spaces are all environments that allow students to collaborate and create.
- Relevancy. Students learn best when they can see a connection between what they are learning and the real-world. Relevant curriculum must be accompanied by relevant environments. High tech labs and learning environments that resemble professional spaces can support and inspire students, giving them a glimpse into their futures. One example of a real-world learning environment is Lee High School in East Baton Rouge, La. The district collaborated with Louisiana State University and industry partners to create Specialized Learning Labs that resemble professional working environments for students to experiment and hone their skills.
As designers, we have the ability and obligation to create the most engaging, inviting and inspiring spaces for students to achieve. In order to do that, we can’t overlook the fundamental question of “how do you learn best?” So, how do you learn best?