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Dear ,

Many schools are looking to reshape the learning environment using keywords such as "open", "flexible", "agile", "modern" or "contemporary".

In our coming newsletters we'll be including some reflections and resources to help you, in your context, shape the learning environment to better meet the needs of your students. 

Each article will work with a different aspect of the journey. A common theme will be the galvanising of teams of teachers around a shared vision and shared pedagogical design that is truly learner-centred.

We start the series, below, with an acknowledgement that all too often new spatial designs can backfire! Read on for strategies for avoiding an "Open Learning Space Disaster"!

Steve Collis
5 Strategies to Avoid an Open Learning Disaster

New spaces hold incredible promise, but they can also be a headache or even a trauma, especially if old pedagogies continued to be deployed without adaptation. Here are five critical elements to launching an open learning space that really works:

Create Enthusiasm by Exploring the Practical Potentials
Be wary of fluffy, idealistic statements about open learning spaces facilitating “self-directed learning” or “21st century learning”. Anchor the “why” of the space in insight linked to specific student needs, such as:

  • Matching the right teacher expertise with the right students
  • Creating potential for physical movement without distracting students who need to retreat and focus

These are concrete logistical dilemmas faced by teachers every day, directly addressable by space redesign.

Safeguard Team Morale With Induction Training
A team of teachers with a shared plan is essential for success. Helping teachers work together is a trainable process. At SCIL we have tutorials for team formation that you can access here and here.

Deploy Expert Input With Sophistication
There are two classic errors to avoid: having one teacher spend excessive time addressing all students, or a retreat from explicit instruction altogether.

Instead open learning spaces allow a sophisticated plan that matches teacher expertise to student needs. Even with a small team of two teachers, the possibilities are broad. Students should feel an increase in useful and effective teacher presence.

Avoid the Anarchy-Trap With Design
Ironically, open learning spaces don’t involve an absence of structure, but actually, a more sophisticated structure. A clearly visible map or dashboard is essential. A poster on the wall, a printed study guide or a teacher-crafted web page bring instructional scaffolding in an immediate and intelligible one-stop shop. This animated timelapse video shows such structures in action.


Address Acoustics
Increased noise is a logical outcome of space designed to for active and collaborative learning. The most appropriate design strategy is to include engineered acoustic treatment, which is effective at preventing sound from escalating.

Even with this, sound remain problematic if there is not a unified plan, shared by teachers and mapped to learner needs. Identify elements of the learning design likely to provoke escalating noise. Possible solutions include digital strategies like flipped learning, headphones, engineered “cave” spaces, the use of outside space, or simply the shaping of routines and expectations.

Design/Engage Master Class Series
If you would like to apply design thinking to learning spaces and pedagogy in greater depth, please consider joining our upcoming online Masterclass Series. The series offers 8 weeks online with collegial support and expert input. Registrations close on Wednesday 27 April.

If you have any queries regarding the series, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

Kind regards,
SCIL Team
Copyright © 2016 Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning, All rights reserved.


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