ECO Friendly Design

Solution? Evolution? Or revolution?

Evaluating classroom environments. Why it is essential? And what does it do for schools, teachers and students? Dr Terry Byers and Wes Imms tell us why they believe the University of Melbourne’s ILETC research project to be critical.

There is little doubt that the design of learning spaces is undergoing a fundamental change at the moment, but why should the evaluation of those spaces be a priority?   These so called ‘21st Century’, ‘flexible’ or ‘Innovative Learning Environments’ (ILEs) are argued to be able to shape behaviour and experiences to affect a desired pedagogical change. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) describe ILEs as multi-modal, technology-infused and flexible learning spaces that are responsive to evolving educational practice. Authors suggest that the synergy of architecture and technologies (both digital and spatial) can facilitate a paradigm shift to learning from traditional or teacher-led pedagogies to more contemporary or student-centric learning modalities. Here there appears to be a rejection of the prevailing teacher-centred conventional or cellular classrooms in favour of flexible and learner-centred environments, which range from adaptive, purposeful spaces through to open-plan. The resulting allure of ILEs has seen them become a matter of policy and systemic investment, with OCED countries like Australia and New Zealand directing more than AUS$16B of public funding in building projects since 2009, and currently allocating up to $7B per year in future infrastructure.  This is a huge investment. On what grounds is it warranted?  Where is the evidence? 

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