Recent research shows that the surrounding environment can remarkably impact the learning outcomes of the students. As a result, new design trends include designing schools that promote individualised learning, innovative teaching as well as incorporating new technology, and sustainability. The design should facilitate the delivery of various types of teaching methods including directive, collaborative, applied, communicative, and decision-making pedagogies.
Realigning design to support pedagogy is more likely to achieve the holistic learning experience needed by the new generation. In order to achieve this, education operators need to encompass many different elements such as knowing the different methods of teaching and learning as well as the recent cultural and sociological trends that may have affected both the teachers and the students. Even though this knowledge makes it easier to understand and align the needs of teachers, students, and administrators, it is often difficult to attain. Therefore, many education operators around the region are still following the conventional approaches that do not acknowledge the contribution of learning spaces to the academic, psychological, and sociological development, limiting the focus of educators in the region only to the academic development of students.
Regarding preschool design, Zahra Hamirani, Chief Education Officer at The Blossom Nursery, said, “Preschool design is becoming more holistic with a greater emphasis of the balance between security and stimulation. A preschool centre is like a second home for many children and the importance of the impact of the space on learning is becoming a core focus. Considering air and light quality; where walls, windows and doors go; the open spaces and ability for children to navigate. Achieving this requires educators to look beyond the boundaries of their profession to include others in the design. I think trends around sustainability, green awareness, safety, more curriculum and approach led designs will all be factors in the ways preschool design evolves.”
Some operators, driven by commercial ambitions, focus on designing learning spaces that seem glossy and prestigious on the outside but are compromising the design elements required for an effective learning environment. Many spaces are consumed in blank hallways and corridors rather than the healthier, open space areas that the students need both psychologically and practically.
Alastair Blyth, Consultant at Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, said, “The symbiotic relationship between pedagogy and building has to be recognised. The pattern varies from school to school and between the extremes of entirely contiguous space with few, if any, walls to broadly cellular approaches. For example, one can see school layouts that have very few enclosed rooms, although the best ones don’t have entirely open plan either. In other words, there are partially enclosed spaces. Essentially they create a variety of settings for group and individual teaching and learning to take place. This may demand a different teaching approach such as team teaching for instance. At the other end of the scale, there may be the predominance of classrooms, but these have a close relationship with alternative small spaces.”
Utilising direct and indirect educational tools, such as the use of pictures and visual aids as well as other specific interior design elements, is one of the effective methods of engaging students while increasing their learning outcomes. Research has shown that different design parameters such as light, sound, temperature, air quality, choice, flexibility, connection, complexity, colour, and texture have an impact on the student’s learning outcomes by as much as 25%. The ideal learning spaces should be exposed to a certain amount of natural light combined with quality electric lights and should contain a variety of different ergonomic furniture pieces for more comfortable options.
These requirements are aligned to the future demands of learning spaces. According to Dr. Cindy Gunn, Professor and Director, Faculty Development Centre, American University of Sharjah, “I think the future of learning is moving towards facilitated independent learning. Universities can prepare themselves for this by providing more active learning spaces and independent learning spaces for their students. Faculty members will also need to be provided with training on how to teach in the active learning spaces and how to prepare students to become more autonomous, independent learners.”