Designing Better Learning Environments for Active Learning
- 15th March 2021
- Anthony Bowie
Author: Dr. Christina Counts
When designing learning environments, it’s important to consider how spaces can support active learning. Active learning is an approach to learning in which students are engaged as active participants in the learning process through investigation, discussion, problem-solving, and collaboration.
The active learning model allows students to be a part of the learning process through exploration and enables them to approach lessons in ways they are better able to learn––rather than passively absorbing lectures and other information. However, most learning spaces up until now have been designed for students to sit and listen instead of actively participating in lessons. This is why it’s important to design learning environments that support active learning and student engagement.
These intentionally-designed learning environments can be created by supporting the goals of active learning with the right layouts and furniture pieces. Here are five ways to support active learning in today’s classrooms:
One of the principles of active learning is collaboration, which is important to facilitate student engagement and understanding. Working with peers allows students to fill the gaps in their knowledge and learn important communication skills. Large collaborative tables or mobile desks that can be configured in a circle or group both can create the spaces needed for active learning through collaboration.
Active learning is facilitated by describing and explaining concepts, as it fortifies pieces of information students already know and reveals which concepts students haven’t yet mastered. Creating time and space for students to present their thoughts and findings on a subject is important to help them synthesize and understand the information on a deeper level. Whether students use a digital presentation projected in front of the entire class or work through problems and share ideas on a marker board in front of a small group, presentations enable active learning.
A learner must actively construct meaning in order to learn new information. Investigating and exploring concepts keeps students actively engaged and helps them develop a deeper understanding of complex ideas. Makerspaces are a common tool to enable students to engage in active learning through discovery and exploration. In these learning spaces, durable tables with a large surface area make it possible for students to spread out, collaborate, and be creative.
For students to successfully engage in active learning, spaces must be designed to promote student comfort and attention during a variety of different individual learning activities. For example, students need space to use supporting tools like their laptops or notebooks in order to actively engage with a lecture, so students’ workspaces should be designed with these needs in mind. Ensuring desks have adequate space for these tools and other materials is an important part of designing for active learning. For other individual learning activities, like reading or studying, comfortable lounging spaces may be better for keeping students engaged with their work.
One of the most important principles of active learning is that every student is able to learn, and supporting each student’s unique preferences and needs for learning can help keep them engaged. Creating different learning environment options for students validates their learning experience and allows them the space––both literally and figuratively––to be active participants in their learning. Standing tables, mobile chairs, backless stools, comfortable lounge furniture, and individual desks can all support different students’ needs and enable active learning.
Designing spaces for active learning creates improved learning environments where every student can be an active participant in the learning process. MiEN Company offers a wide range of products that can support the principles of active learning, creating engaging learning environments for diverse students.
Dr. Christina Counts, VP of Strategy and Development for MiEN Environments, is a proven leader with a successful background in transforming learning spaces to modern engaging learning environments. Dr. Counts has worked in education for over 17 years with experience as a classroom teacher, district instructional leader, school administrator, and digital and innovative learning designer. In her most recent position, Christina leads a team of professionals that support schools making the transition to a flexible, collaborative, & student-centered learning space. She holds a doctorate in K-12 Educational Leadership, National Board-certified, and Google & Apple certified. Dr. Counts envisions a learning space in which educators are empowered to transform education through design, technology and innovative instructional pedagogy to create learners ready for any future!