At Education Buildings Wales, we recently shared some thoughts examining the progression of the Activity Based Working environment in comparison to the mainstream school environment of children being taught in boxes of loose furniture.

It has now been proven that the design of space can contribute 16% to the overall yearly performance of children. With this in mind shouldn’t we be investigating the relationship between pedagogy, ergonomics, the design of space, stimulation, personalisation and naturalness for all of our school year groups?

WeWork Coworking Office Space, Ginza Six, Tokyo
Photograph courtesy of WeWork

The design of spaces has many layers of consideration: the functional requirements of operating theaters, workshops and science labs; strategic requirements such as retail design as a brand experience and product presentation; aesthetic considerations of course, and experiential design. And by experiential design, we mean how an environment is experienced over time by the visitor and by their sensors of sound, sight, touch, taste and smell.

Let’s briefly examine how the adult world has evolved. The 18th century workhouse became our 19th century places of work. Rows of machines turned into rows of desks. This format, with an individual worker at an individual station, surprisingly persisted right into the 21st century. In fact, it was only about 10 years ago that Activity Based Working was recognised and began to be adopted by global corporations.

As Professor Franklin Becker of Cornell University wrote ‘Studies have revealed that a limited range of locations (notably the desk and meeting room) to perform work activities, actually inhibits social interaction and knowledge sharing. There should be a range of places for people to choose where they can conduct their chosen activity.’

We believe that these principles should be applied to the classroom. We understand there is a fundamental connection between the curriculum, teaching methodologies and the environment in which it occurs. It is in countries where the national curriculum forces teachers to operate with a group of approximately 30 children in a single space where we should be focusing our attention. We should provide children with the freedom to go to spaces that are designed specifically as tools for concentration, collaboration, socialising and inspiration.

Prototype activity-based learning classroom, Raha International School
Visual: Space Zero

We are progressing with the development of prototype designs to test our hypotheses because we believe this could genuinely improve learning outcomes. We also know for instance, that getting children moving around helps with learning and concentration. We believe that providing a choice of areas or a ‘typology of ergonomics’ will help the more introverted and extraverted children. We also believe these environments could also assist in terms of SEND. We are convinced that children would simply enjoy being there too!

How do we measure the benefits of this? Post Occupancy Evaluation surveys of workplace evolution show a big improvement and this has provided corporations with enough evidence to be implementing it worldwide. We believe this can translate to the classroom. It needs to be proven and we most definitely want to try.

Watch our video on Activity Based Learning here.

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