Designing Community Planning Spaces for Educators

Designing Community Planning Spaces for Educators

Author: Dr. Christina Counts

Collaboration in schools is essential to create rich and productive learning experiences that are inclusive. Collaborating allows both students and teachers alike to learn from one another and build on each other’s ideas to gain deeper understanding of complex subjects and develop creative concepts.

When teachers collaborate with each other, they benefit both mentally and professionally––collaboration between educators has a positive correlation with job satisfaction (OECD 2014), a key element of an effective teacher. Additionally, some studies suggest that teacher collaboration has a positive effect on student achievement (Lee & Smith, 1996).

Collaboration among educators benefits school communities in multiple ways, so it’s important to provide spaces where educators can effectively work alongside one another. When designing a shared community planning space for teachers, a key factor of a functional space is its ability to adapt to varying forms of collaboration. By considering the different ways teachers will utilize a shared space, you can design a space that functions well for both collaboration and individual planning time.

Here are some ways educators can utilize community planning spaces, and how to design for these functions:

Team Planning

Teachers of a common grade level or subject can benefit from collaborating on lesson plans or discussing student progress. When meeting in a common space for a team planning meeting, collaborative furniture pieces are key. Large, collaboration tables or conference tables can provide teachers with a space to gather and spread out lesson plan materials and personal devices to work together toward a common goal. Furthermore, mobile marker boards can be an easy way to provide teachers with a movable presentation space where they can share and visualize ideas.

One-On-One Collaboration

Sometimes teachers can benefit from advice given by a fellow teacher or collaboration to find a specific solution to a problem. Whether the relationship between the teachers is mentor-mentee, shared grade level, same subject, or shared students, a community planning space can offer a place for one-on-one discussions of all types. When it comes to a one-on-one collaborative session, furniture pieces like mobile and swivel chairs and mobile and modular tables and desks can be beneficial to educators, offering the ability to shift away from other discussions in order to maintain focus or grow the conversation from one-on-one to a team collaboration.

Individual Space

Sometimes, community planning spaces are created in order to more efficiently utilize school space, giving teachers a home base to plan and work in and having them change classrooms throughout the day along with the students. This minimizes wasted space and utilities associated with multiple classrooms at a time sitting empty during teachers’ planning periods throughout the day. Individual planning space in a community space may look similar to a study corner in a library, with space dividers to aid focus and a comfortable, supportive chair for maximum comfort during one of the few periods of rest teachers get throughout the school day.

Community planning spaces can benefit your school in many ways, increasing collaboration and utilizing classroom space more efficiently. In addition to these design elements to help create a useful space for teachers to work, it’s also crucial to provide storage to help keep the room clear of teachers’ belongings and many accessible power outlets for teachers to charge their many devices. With all of these features, you can create spaces where educators can be productive and collaboration will thrive!

References:

Lee, V., & Smith, J. (1996). Collective Responsibility for Learning and Its Effects on Gains in Achievement for Early Secondary School Students. American Journal of Education, 104(2).

OECD (2014), “What Helps Teachers Feel Valued and Satisfied with their Jobs?”, Teaching in Focus, No. 5, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/5jxzbtw4gzg3-en.

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!