Written by Associate Professor Craig Deed, School of Education, La Trobe University
The traditional industrial-era school design is widely seen as just not working anymore. The old classrooms were enclosed boxes, isolated, fixed, inwards looking, with one authoritative teacher out the front. How is this supposed to produce a clever, critical, agile, and responsive workforce? Professor Craig Deed who will be speaking at the Inaugural School Planning, Design & Construction Conference, breaks down the biggest perks of losing the traditional style classroom.
One possibility is to think of contemporary classrooms in terms of productive interactions between the teacher, the student, and the context. Context plays an active part in architectural and educational ideas including openness, community, visibility, flexible or virtual classrooms, democracy, informal learning, interdisciplinarity, boundary crossing or distributed expertise. In each case, teaching and learning is imagined in a different time and space. We might call this phenomenon school-lessness – an expression that conveys loss and freedom, and uncertainty and possibility.
School is not a particularly fragile contraption, and in many ways, the classroom works; especially when teachers recycle the traditions and customs they experienced. But can an enduring institution be maintained because it is an enduring institution? Or would we like a school experience that authorises something a bit different.
A school-less space, for example, could work like a neighbourhood or community. Perhaps it might be a democratic space, where control and freedom are exercised by both teacher and students. Learning space can be both disruptive and generative – where educational entrepreneurs flourish and experimentation abounds. New classrooms should be open to the world but also allow authentic local experience. Furniture may be moveable to allow for all sorts of learning configurations, and all surfaces could be writable. While much learning is social, the most elementary function of school-less design should be to accommodate the individual (student and teacher) – a place for thinking, for belonging, for creativity and risk-taking.
New school design could do all these things and still carry on the traditions and routines of the institution it replaces. School design must therefore be an anchor, a prompt, and create both a blueprint and questions about how to teach and learn. So, architecture can introduce both abstraction and functionality into the question of what the next space for learning might look like. Thought of in this way, school-lessness suggests both the breaking and remaking of the box.
Professor Craig Deed will be presenting at the Inaugural School Planning, Design and Construction Conference that will be taking place on the 1-2 June. This conference will highlight the need for more efficient and flexible classrooms that offer students the ability to grow in unique learning spaces. Learn how to ‘remake the box’; view the program and register here.