4 ways active learning spaces support the modern educational environment

Active learning spaces equipped with modern furniture and fixtures support new pedagogy, drive higher levels of student engagement, and allow students to work at their own pace.
Karen Cheser is superintendent of Durango School District in Colorado.
Karen Cheser is superintendent of the Durango School District in Colorado.

By design, active learning spaces provide extensive pedagogical opportunities to meet the needs of today’s students through “active learning” and the develop of relevant skills. They do this by putting students at the center of the learning experience, going beyond traditional desks-and-whiteboard classroom setups, and incorporating technology into the experience.

Active learning spaces also include comfortable tables, seating, desks from providers like MiEN, which fill spaces with furniture that can be easily adapted to evolving learning environments. In return, districts get dynamic, flexible, and mobile learning spaces that:

  1. Drive engagement. Creating new learning environments and supporting new pedagogy, curriculum, and personalization with technology will drive higher levels of student engagement and academic achievement while allowing students to work at their own pace. Actively engaging learners has been associated with increases in students’ academic and behavioral performance. To create a classroom environment that engages all learners, instruction should be 1) contextually and culturally relevant for all learners and 2) be differentiated to meet the diverse learning needs within the classroom.
  2. Are flexible and agile. Flexible functionality of redesigned learning spaces allows reconfiguration of the space throughout the day depending on the learning objective or whether students need to work alone, in pairs, or in a small group. For example, MiEN uses movable walls and modern, modular, multi-use furniture to help districts reconfigure physical spaces based on the learning objective. Desks, tables, and chairs on casters are easy to move and quickly reshape the learning space to accommodate quiet activities, small group, or whole group activities. Use soft seating for reading or working in pairs.
  1. Promote collaboration. These responsive learning spaces allow brainstorming, collaboration, and a variety of meeting configurations that reflect the campuses and workplaces of today. Rather than having students sit at individual desks facing a teacher and whiteboard, they encourage group activities and allow kids to stretch the limits of their creativity. Active learning spaces also give students voice and choice to facilitate how they learn best and promote ownership of their learning.
  1. Teach critical skills. The activities in active learning spaces foster the development of the 4Cs (critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication) and other technical and social skills that students need for successful learning outcomes. These and other skills, such as computational thinking, growth mindset, resilience, and leadership are critical for students’ academic and career success. In pursuit of these skills, students will also develop highly valued social skills that allow them to engage and collaborate with others successfully.

Innovation and adoption

One of the outcomes of the pandemic has been the rapid adoption of school-based technology within a compressed period of time. The disruption of schools has led to innovation and the adoption of new teaching strategies and tools. For example, most students now have mobile devices, and schools have been teaching in a rotation of remote, in-person, and hybrid learning models.

With the infusion of technology and the use of more flexible learning models, district administrators are now permanently implementing blended learning moving forward—combining the best of online and face-to-face instruction. These and other shifts have made the traditional arrangement of desks and front-of-the-classroom focus unnecessary. In its place are active learning environments that support new pedagogy, drive higher levels of student engagement, and allow students to work at their own pace.

Karen Cheser serves as the Superintendent of Durango School District in Colorado.

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