Driving Design Philosophy

You can’t expect children to learn 21st-century skills in schools built for the 1950’s. We need schools designed for 21st-century success‘ -Chad P. Wick, President and CEO, KnowledgeWorks Foundation

Schools are changing: more and more of emphasis is put on developing definitions of learning, and learning principles that guide the culture of learning institutions. More and more schools are wanting their philosophy to be visible, reflected in their learning spaces and mirrored in the environment where all learners; students, teachers and parents, come together to engage in the act of learning.

The kind of learning that will define the 21st century is not taking place in traditional classrooms but rather all around us, everywhere and it is powerful. Schools need to reflect that change in learning culture and become more attuned to the possibilities of future: what will learning look like in 20 years? What will learning spaces look like then? How will the advances of technology determine the needs of modern learning environments?

So school designs need to be reimagined. Why to design spaces that are already old the moment they are taken to use, designed by people who will not be using them? Many of today’s learners are self-directed, sophisticated global citizens with opinions and experiences beyond their years – and they want their views and voices to be heard! When designing modern learning environments, pedagogical research and students’ voice need to lead the way. For the spaces to meet the needs of the learners, the design needs to be based on latest research on learning.

The following are some of the important learning principles that guide my design on modern learning environments:

Everyone has a right to learn: We need to design learning spaces that will take individual needs into account and will be flexible, readjusted, reorganized and repurposed according to the needs of learners and learning at hand.

Learning is a social activity: Learning spaces will offer opportunities for maximized collaboration on the part of all learners and substantive conversation, encouraged planning and focused team learning is facilitated by the learning environment. Learning is deprivatized and happens in the collective, rather than in silos as in past.

Learning is personal: When learners are self-directed, empowered and making real life connections, learning sticks! We need to personalize learning to the maximum extend possible, for appropriate levels of challenge and choice. Our learning environment needs to reflect that allowing for personal reflection and consolidation of understanding.

Learning happens best in rich, relevant contexts: learning needs to be made feel as little institutionalized as possible and hence learning environments need to reflect the outside world as much possible. If we can’t take the kids out there, we need to bring the world to the school!

What should schools look like when information is loose and available everywhere in ways that are personally relevant and streamlined to individual students?‘ – Renate Nummela Caine and Geoffrey Caine, education consultants