The School of Thought: Why Spatial Agility is Important in Education
The world of work and tech moves fast. Blink, and the latest bit of software or new platform will have whizzed by. For the next generation entering the workplace, it can be an intimidating world, swamped with choice and expectations of maturity. Educational environments, especially when students reach college level, need to get ahead of the game and get their learners ‘life-ready.’ By allowing students to make their own choices, own their learning styles and have autonomy over how they do it, we can expect to see young adults ready to work or are more prepared for higher education. Regardless of the path they choose, this new wave must be supported by space. Research shows that factors such as colour, air quality and texture can all impact a student’s rate of learning. By harnessing design tools and expanding libraries, learning centres or even sports halls and transforming them into flexible working environments, educational settings can become more self-governing but still supportive places to learn, creating students who can make adult choices.
What is Autonomous Learning?
Autonomous learning or self-directed learning creates an environment in which students are given the reigns to make responsible choices for learning. In these spaces, students can make their own decisions on how they learn, whether deep-focus or if they recognise they work better in a busy space. It gets students out of regulated classrooms where they work to complete tasks and provides them the opportunity to take ownership of their learning style and implement a strategy that helps them to achieve beyond the four walls. Research has shown us that those who have experienced self-directed learning not only can outperform those who have not, but that they are more capable than their peers in critical thinking and problem solving. By developing these skills early on in life, or at the precipice of adulthood, these students become adults who are indepdendent thinkers, prepared for the imminent self-reliance that we all need when it comes to our careers or in higher education.
How Can Schools take Inspiration from Workspace?
Schools can borrow from Human Centered Design principles and design thinking, which are often found within workspace. This is where design understands its people, and creates space that speaks to their needs. The combination of design thinking and the Human Centred Design process can look something like this:
Inspiration: The discovery of the problem motivates a search for a solution. Designers may immerse themselves into the environment they are innovating to help pinpoint solutions before issues arise.
Ideation: This is where creative problem-solving begins. Designers may synthesise situations to then develop and test ideas.
Implementation: This is an integral component of the HCD philosophy. Prototypes are initially introduced, and then learnings are taken and applied from the test. Embracing failure and reiterating prototypes is crucial to fostering empathy in the solution.
Learn more about this approach and its benefits in our blog, Designing for the Human Touch.
How does Autonomous Learning meet Design?
Now, if we move this into schools, suddenly, we are building educational environments that are empathetic to its students, and understands that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to learning. Similarly to workspaces, schools should provide students options by creating dedicated zones to different needs. These could vary from more traditional quiet spaces where independent, focussed study is encouraged, to collaborative, lively areas where ideas can be exchanged to even booths or smaller meeting rooms where small groups of students can come together to work on a specific project. This, combined with intentional and thoughtful use of colour, texture, aural architecture and ventilation can create a learning environment which can yield powerful results. It’s integral to the success of this design that the students are supported to use these properly. Teachers can become coaches, who guide their pupils and help uphold the principles of each zone. Self-directed learning helps them to hone vital life skills such as time management, social interaction and self motivation, and can become an empowering tool for students, where they’re treated as adults and so make adult decisions.