In the modern learning environment world, sometimes we use the f-word: flexible.
There is quite a bit of debate over whether an environment should be flexible (and able to be re-purposed into any configuration when needed) or purposeful (with clearly defined ‘learning settings’ that support particular activities). Both have their merits, but what’s the difference, and which is right for us?
As always with modern learning environments (or practice) a great place to start is with your values and beliefs about learning.
“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are”
– Roy Disney
When planning changes to your physical environment (or even buying new furniture), it’s important, as a community, to talk about what good learning looks like. A great way to do this is to have people talk about their theories of learning and what sits behind those theories: “I believe powerful learning happens when learners are active rather than passive”, or, “Student ownership of the learning process leads to powerful learning.” The unpacking of these theories to explore whether they are based on research, hunches, student voice, or personal experience is a powerful way for staff to begin to make decisions about physical learning environments.
Once these conversations have taken place (and are set up to continue to take place), a school or centre can best determine whether flexible (the f-word) or purposeful learning settings are best. Here are some case studies for each: