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8 Ways Classroom Design Supports Active Learning

classroom active learningDiscussions about education see no shortage of strong opinions, and understandably so. Childhood education is critical to our future, and not a topic to be taken lightly.

Thankfully, despite varying opinions, many experts are finding common ground in one particular area: activity-based learning.

School boards, teachers, and parents agree: the classroom should reflect the dynamic, vibrant, and curious nature of children.

Active Learning

Do you remember learning to ride your bike?

Did your parents sit you down and show a PowerPoint presentation outlining the steps required to ride a bicycle? Probably not. Chances are, they wheeled out a bike, convinced you to hop on, and cheered for you as you tried, fell, and tried again.

The point is, people learn by doing. Yet, until recently, schools have traditionally taken a 'stand and deliver, sit and listen' approach to teaching. However, there's been a recent shift away from this methodology. Instead, in an active learning environment, teacher's can support the unique needs of each student in the classroom.

These classrooms - and the type of education they support - encourage growth and independence rather than stifling the learning process. Learning is messy, noisy and dynamic - and the classroom should reflect this.

Core concepts

As activity-based learning gains popularity, the picture of an ideal classroom is becoming clearer. When designing a classroom, keep the following ideas in mind:

1. Teach To Learn, Not Just Listen.

Education goes far beyond merely teaching facts from a curriculum; we should be teaching life skills in school as well. Collaboration, self-regulation, problem solving and confidence - these are all vital to success in every aspect of adulthood. Teaching children to sit still and be quiet does little to promote success later in life.

2. Promote Peer-to-peer Interaction.

Enabling students to discuss concepts or methods amongst themselves makes a lesson more real and memorable. Encouraging discussion not only teaches students how to brainstorm and problem-solve, but it also develops interpersonal skills, such as respect, patience, and open-mindedness.

3. Equal Learning Opportunities.

There are stereotypes associated with seating choice in a traditional classroom. The naughty, disruptive kids tend to find themselves sitting in the back row, while the keen, teacher's pets gravitate towards the front of the class.

These labels are harmful and limiting, regardless of which child we're discussing.  In an active learning classroom, the standard rows of desks and large teacher’s area are swapped out for a layout that promotes equality. This could mean several large, group tables, or individual desks in a circle formation.

Either way, the teacher can move around the group freely, focusing their attention evenly between each child.

4. Flexibility And Change.

The goal of active learning is to engage students in the learning process. We stop learning when we become complacent, and we become complacent when we're bored.

To combat such boredom, frequently transition between teaching methodologies. In the span of an hour, desks may be joined for group discussion, pushed against the wall to make room for a game, and then separated for a quiz. For this reason, furniture should reconfigure quickly and easily.

5. Support Individuality.

No two students are the same. Classroom management relies on having a variety of options available to accommodate varied learning styles. An active learning classroom may provide a quiet nook for those who struggle to focus, yoga mats for kids who prefer to sprawl out, rocking chairs for students who concentrate better when moving, and stand-up desks for children who literally think better on their feet.

The key is respecting each student’s ability to define his or her ideal learning environment.

6. Movement Should Be Encouraged, Not Punished.

An ideological shift must occur to achieve success in an active learning environment. Teachers must be willing to sacrifice lecture time to allow for additional activity time. No matter how movement is encouraged, it's a necessary step to refocusing the mind.

7. Technology As A Tool.

For better or worse, technology is a central part of our lives. Rather than treating it as a distraction, we should use it as an aid to teaching. In order for this to be possible, though, we need to incorporate it properly into the classroom. Whenever possible, cords and outlets should be integrated into the furniture or floors. Lessons shouldn't be hindered or delayed due to lacking technology.

Contact CDI Spaces today to learn more abour our education furniture solutions and how we support activie learning in the classrooms.

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I have to let you know how amazing our snaking Learning Common space has become. It is a joy seeing the full furniture vision arrive and being used by kids.

Todd Hennig. Principal.
Cooper’s Crossing School