Pedagogy and space are inextricably linked. They are not mutually exclusive. Progressive pedagogies can exist within even the most traditional of spaces, as can traditional pedagogies in the most modern and contemporary space. Space shouldn’t be used as an excuse for a particular approach to teaching and learning but often schools are restricted by their physical space and lack the necessary budgets or locations to physically change the infrastructure of their buildings.
So without access to new buildings and significant budgets for new furniture what can be done to transform existing spaces? Here are four simple things that can disrupt the traditional way of thinking about how a classroom environment operates.
1. Remove the front of the room
Arrange the room so that there is no “front” of the room. This is actually easier than it sounds with some judicious placing and rearranging of existing furniture. What this does is change the dominant paradigm of teacher standing at the front, students facing the teacher, and teacher delivering the required information to students. Our Vision for Learning talks about what we believe when it comes to pedagogy – “We believe that the preferred kind of pedagogy is learner-centred and learner-driven, project-based and experiential by nature, interspersed with purposeful periods of direct instruction.” Purposeful is the key word here as direct instruction is still important but it shouldn’t be the dominant style of pedagogy.
2. Create multiple focal points
This supports the idea of removing the front of the room. Instead of purchasing an expensive interactive whiteboard or a 90″ LCD screen, purchase 4 smaller LCD screens and position them either on stands or mounted on swivels at various locations around the room. Also provide a wireless presentation gateway to each room. We use the WiPG-2000 as a wireless presentation gateway which allows a single device to project to multiple screens or for a screen to have 4 devices connected to it simultaneously as a 4-way split screen. This allows students and teachers to connect, share and collaborate in new and various ways.
3. Have less chairs than students
This one is simple. Have less chairs than students. This can cause a serious rethink about how a class operates.
4. Create different height work spaces
This doesn’t necessarily require the purchase of new furniture, just get creative. We have used old student lockers as standing work spaces, or have reused old whiteboards and re-purposed them as collaborative work tables.