The days when students filed into a classroom, sat at individual desks, and listened to a teacher lecture from behind a podium are a thing of the past. Today, flexible learning environments and classrooms offer more opportunities for students to practice 21st century skills like critical thinking, collaboration, and teamwork.
These classrooms also:
• Give students “voice and choice” about where and how they learn best
• Support teachers in changing their pedagogy
• Provide students with more opportunities to communicate and collaborate with peers
• Actively engage students in the creative learning process
• Support deeper connections among teachers and peers.
• Provide greater student autonomy, and particularly when teachers understand the connection between the freedom to move about and the flexible furniture that’s in their classrooms.
Steps to success
Before they start filling their classrooms with flexible furniture, teachers and administrators should gain a solid understanding of how flexible learning environments and classrooms support changes in teaching strategies.
Physical spaces that are appropriate for primary and secondary classrooms, for example, will differ from one another. Seeing the difference for themselves is an important piece of professional learning for classroom teachers.
Once this solid foundation is in place, schools can start creating more flexible learning spaces.
Here are five more ways these spaces support student success and achievement:
1. They make classrooms more interesting. Flexible furniture contributes to a more active learning environment where students have opportunities to master essential skills (i.e., creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication).
2. They support learning success. Creating these new learning environments and supporting new pedagogy, curriculum, and personalization with technology will drive higher levels of student engagement and academic achievement.
3. They give students a say in their learning. Flexible learning environments facilitate student-centered classrooms where students take responsibility for their own learning and have personalized support for where and how they learn best.
4. They promote student engagement. Flexible learning environments leverage physical design factors and increase student engagement with light, temperature, air quality, student ownership, color, and visual complexity (i.e., furniture colors).
5. They prepare students for success in the real world. Today’s workplace is a very collaborative environment and requires top-notch communication skills to be successful. With an ever-changing job market for today’s students, it is important to recognize that these skills are transferable and are already prized in the workplace.
Flexible classrooms are proliferating
There are many examples of flexible, active learning environments across the country—not just in new school design but in retrofitting existing schools. Innovative furniture often creates spaces that promote student engagement and creative thinking while reflecting a school’s culture.
Flexible and adaptable furniture designs are incorporating mobile and collaborative features that support the 21st century school and learning concepts. District leaders can readily recognize how new learning environments—supported by customized professional development, flexible furniture, and student-centered curriculum—accelerate learning and help students transition from school to career.
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