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How flexible learning spaces improve active learning

By Dennis Pierce
July 19th, 2016

The way classrooms are designed can have a big impact on how students learn

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For generations, most high schools have been designed with a cookie-cutter approach “that can be reproduced easily,” said Ashley Smith, who works with the architectural firm Smith Design Group. But that’s certainly not true of the new THINC College & Career Academy in LaGrange, Ga., which Smith helped design.

Housed in a building on the campus of West Georgia Technical College, THINC looks nothing like a traditional high school. Instead, it has the look and feel of a Google office building, with brightly colored carpet tiles, lots of glass walls, and stylish furniture that can be moved around easily to create flexible, collaborative workspaces.

Within those spaces, students work in teams to design and build parts for forestry machines, market a college radio station, or even launch their own start-up company. To complete these activities, they use the same technologies that professionals in those fields would use to do their jobs.

The school’s innovative design supports a more modern learning experience, in which students complete hands-on, collaborative projects. It’s a perfect example of active, 21st century learning, where students are fully engaged in their education rather than just passively listening to lectures.

See also: Is this model the future of college and career readiness?

For instance, in the engineering pathway, students work with engineers from construction equipment manufacturer Caterpillar to design and build parts for machines used in forestry. Students design the parts using AutoCAD, print them with a 3D printer, and when a part meets the engineers’ specifications, they use a computer numerical control machine to mill the part out of metal.

Next page: Research shows why flexible learning is critical