CNN.com – Design for learning – Aug 12, 2005

Both K-12 educators and those of us in higher education are trying to find effective ways to align what we know about effective student learning with the contruction and renovation of our classrooms and buildings. Jeffery Lackney, an architect and professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, identifies several major learning trends that are shaping (or should be shaping) the design of 21st century schools.

In such an environment, students can set their own agendas with teachers who act as advisers. Some teachers focus on collaborative projects that link to the real world, such as building a community garden.
In response to these trends, designers are replacing traditional classrooms with “studios” that contain storage areas for long-term projects and spaces for individual, small-group and large-group work.

I’ve always been impressed with the kind of communication and commitment that is developed in the studios of artists, actors and musicians and the labs of scientists. I’d like to see us explore what learning resources it would take to create learning spaces that would foster that same kind of learning within the humanities and social sciences. I’d also like to see the college work to incorporate some of the ideas mentioned in this article on natural light and others on sustainable building practices.

William and Mary is about to emark on a major program of renovation that will touch the majority of the academic buildings on campus. We’re also looking at a significant opportunity to bring much of the IT staff into a single building. This notion of “neighborhood groupings might be interesting for us to explore with our architects and planners.

There is a push to build smaller schools, with smaller class sizes. When redesigning large school buildings, architects reconfigure schools into “neighborhood groupings” and remove corridors to make more spaces for learning.