Designing Responsive Learning Spaces Throughout a School
- June 29, 2020
- Anthony Bowie
Author: Dr. Christina Counts
To best support learning, classrooms need to be responsive and flexible to fit schools’ changing needs and uses. Responsive learning spaces adapt to the needs of a variety of subjects, grade levels, and students. These flexible learning environments encourage creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration, making them an important tool in fostering learning.
When designing responsive learning spaces throughout a school, it’s important to consider the range of possibilities that the space may serve. In order to be adaptable, learning spaces first need flexible furniture pieces and functionally responsive layouts. If a space is designed with a responsive layout in mind, it can easily be converted to serve different purposes throughout the day or year. Additionally, flexible furniture pieces make it possible to organize and set up furniture for any specific purpose or activity, making these furniture pieces a valuable and long-lasting investment.
Cafeteria layouts always include the obvious: space for students to gather and eat their lunch at large, easy-to-clean tables. Outside of lunch hours, a cafeteria offers a large space for students to spread out to study, work on projects, or even take standardized tests. With flexible seating and tables that can be tucked away, the cafeteria also easily transforms into a functional gathering space for meetings, student assemblies, or professional development for educators.
Common spaces are a great place for students to gather before and after school to socialize and study together. With the right flexible furniture, common spaces also become a quiet study space for students’ free periods, extra eating space outside of the cafeteria, or even a flexible makerspace. After school, common spaces can be arranged to accommodate student club meetings. These spaces can even be transformed into an extension of the classroom, particularly in instances such as the recent COVID-19 pandemic where students need to keep a safe social distance throughout the school day.
One of the most important places to create a responsive learning space is in the classroom. Students spend most of their school day and nearly all of their learning time within the classroom, so it’s important that the space is flexible to fit all of their learning needs throughout the day. A responsive classroom learning space easily switches between lecture and work time, allowing students a comfortable and functional space for learning. Flexible furniture makes it possible to change up the classroom layout to accommodate collaborative work, then return to a more traditional layout for solo work or testing. Responsive learning spaces also present a functional solution to unusual circumstances, such as the need for socially-distanced classrooms during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Responsive design sets up learning spaces for student success. Flexible seating, mobile furniture, and multi-use pieces are key to creating a responsive learning space design. With the right layout and combination of classroom furniture pieces, learning spaces can easily adapt to serve all students’ and educators’ learning and teaching needs.
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!