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Student Centered Learning - Physical Environment (redirected from Student Centered Physical Environment)

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How could you design the physical environment of the classroom, including technology, to be conducive to student-centered learning?



The Student-Centered Classroom Has No Front

     A student centered classroom allows students to learn to be independent, however, many students are used to entering a classroom which has them sitting in rows and facing a teacher who lectures from the front and transfers information by writing on a board or sharing a presentation on a screen. This format leaves students completely dependent on their teacher's knowledge and preparation of the content and encourages passivity instead of democratic involvement in their own learning process. This model of education is outdated and, "is no longer effective at preparing engaged 21st-century citizens. This model is being replaced by constructivist educational pedagogy that emphasizes the role students play in making connections and developing ideas, solutions, and questions. Already, teachers are creating active learning environments that place students in small workgroups to solve problems, create, and discover together. Classrooms should be profound places of revelation and discovery. Well-designed space has the ability to elevate discourse, encourage creativity, and promote collaboration." (Wilson Jr., 2013, p. 2)

     It is admittedly an overstatement to say that "a student centered classroom has no front," because the reality is that learners do benefit from lecture and audio/visual presentations as parts of the learning process. In other words, "[teachers] need to tell [learners] stuff and show them how to do things, but [teachers] also need to let [their] learners discover, experiment, and practice even if they miss the mark or target. Educational research tell us time and time again that all learners (young or old) need time to muddle through and make meaning of new content, ideas, and concepts with some coaching and guidance, but also independently." (Alber, 2015)


     Stanford University's d.school is an example of an educational institution which helps students to "change the way they're working," so that they develop their independence by taking command of their own learning process while, "the instructor [becomes] more of a guide on the side, than a sage on the stage."



Fuji Kindergarten is another example of an educational institution which allows students to explore and interact independently because of a physical environment designed with their desires for both autonomy and community in mind.




The Student-Centered Classroom Is Reconfigurable

     "Within the classroom walls, learning space should be as flexible as possible, not only because different teachers and classes require different configurations, but because in order to fully engage in constructivist learning, students need to transition between lecture, group study, presentation, discussion, and individual work time. Furniture that facilitates rapid reorganization of the classroom environment is readily available from multiple product manufacturers" (Wilson Jr., 2013, p. 2) Technology should also be incorporated into the physical environment and be reconfigurable so that students can move with ease from individual work spaces to collaborative work spaces. Desktop computers, are an example of an outdated technology which does not allow for a rapid reconfiguration of the learning space, while tablets move with the learner as needed.

     Collaboration is key to student centered learning and starts by, "creating a space that allows movement, allows active posture to really help collaboration move more smoothly, and can forward creativity by allowing people to participate when they want, step out when they don’t, and allow leadership to move throughout the group...when you put people up on tall stools and give them upright posture and even allow them– or encourage them– to get off the stool and move around, it creates a little more active engagement in a project." People at Stanford University's d.school are "much more comfortable taking control of their own environment and catering it to the activities that they have in mind...when spaces are available that people can quickly pop into, put their work up, or that they can close off temporarily and meet as a team, those kinds of spaces really can help build the momentum among the people that work there."

     Student centered classrooms do not only need reconfigurable space for collaboration, but for solitude and reflection as well. "In those environments where you’re hyper-collaborative, your always coming in contact with people, you’re always extroverted, having a place to just hide and sneak away to actually becomes even more critical...so anytime you have the extreme of a lot of collaboration, you also need the extreme of a hiding place, or a place to find respite, or a place to do work in long periods of time. So one thought is to create spaces that are usable for anyone at anytime, but aren’t owned by any particular person, where people can just sneak away and hide." (Doorley & Witthoft, 2018) "There’s a natural rhythm to collaboration. People need to focus alone or in pairs to generate ideas or process information; then they come together as a group to build on those ideas or develop a shared point of view; and then they break apart again to take next steps. The more demanding the collaboration task is, the more individuals need punctuating moments of private time to think or recharge." (Congdon, Flynn & Redman, 2014)



The Student-Centered Classroom Is Equipped With Resources

     Student centered learning happens when a plethora of resources, including various kinds of technology, are available to students so that they may follow their curiosity, discover their interests through exploration, and increase their learning through experimentation. "Wireless technology and portable laptop and tablet devices bring the internet...to every desk in the classroom. Coupled with projectors, microphones, and video cameras, the classroom experience is fully connected to the internet. This provides new ways of teaching and new ways of learning that require specific physical support." (Wilson Jr., 2013, p. 2)


     EDhub is an example of an educational institution which has provided students with a space full of resources so that learning happens because of student initiative, inquiry, and engagement with the resources.



The Student-Centered Classroom Is Marked By Student Expression

     The student centered classroom should be "intended to serve as a canvas for creative thinking." (Doorley & Witthoft, 2018) When students create something and it becomes a part of the learning environment, there is a sense that they have contributed in a meaningful way. If a student makes a poster, for example, and places it on the wall, or makes a video and is allowed to play it muted on a loop with subtitles on one of the screens in the classroom, they have made their mark. This is practice for students who desire to make their mark in the world outside of the classroom as well. It also builds a sense of community and ownership of the space, so that it becomes a haven for contributing creatively based on the content being studied in the classroom. "You start showing your work. Other people see it. They start getting excited about it. And then, they might want to replicate the same thing." (Doorley & Witthoft, 2018)



Return to 'Student-Centered Learning' to read more.





 Wilson Jr. L. R. (2013, Summer). Classroom Design. Retrieved from: https://www.scribd.com/document/288107881/Classroom-design


Alber, R. (2015, January). How Student Centered Is Your Classroom? Retrieved from: https://www.edutopia.org/blog/how-student-centered-your-classroom-rebecca-alber


Steelcase. (2010, December). Stanford d.school - Case Study. Retrieved from:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSjezj7_6mc&feature=youtu.be


Tezuka T. (2014, September). The Best Kindergarten You’ve Ever Seen. Retrieved from: https://www.ted.com/talks/takaharu_tezuka_the_best_kindergarten_you_ve_ever_seen


Doorley S., Witthoft S. (2018). Designing Spaces for Creative Collaboration. Retrieved from: https://hbr.org/2012/01/designing-spaces-for-creative#


Congdon C., Flynn D., Redman M. (2014, October). Balancing “We” and “Me”: The Best Collaborative Spaces Also Support Solitude. Retrieved from: https://hbr.org/2014/10/balancing-we-and-me-the-best-collaborative-spaces-also-support-solitude?referral=03758&cm_vc=rr_item_page.top_right


Edutopia. (2017, December). Building a 21st-Century Learning Space. Retrieved from: https://www.edutopia.org/video/building-21st-century-learning-space


O’Malley J. (2017, April). Getting Started With Self-Organized Learning Environments. Retrieved from: https://www.edutopia.org/blog/getting-started-self-organized-learning-environments-jacquelyn-omalley

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