New report puts spotlight on teacher inclusion in classroom design

  • Teachers and school leaders need to be part of the classroom design process to improve student learning outcomes in 2020 and beyond, Monash University research shows.
  • State governments spend billions of dollars annually on new school builds, but they are often not flexible enough to cater for current educational demands.
  • Monash University will officially launch the first Education Futures Spotlight Series Report on Thursday 19 March.

As state governments invest billions of dollars on new-build schools each year, Monash University researchers say educators need to be just as much a part of this process as the design and construction teams, so they can inform the design of innovative learning spaces.

A study of more than 8000 peer-reviewed research articles found school leaders were not only alienated from the classroom design process, but weren’t provided with adequate training to support teachers in their transition from traditional to contemporary classrooms.

Students were also excluded from the school design process in all but one case study.

The report by Professor Joanne Deppeler and Dr Kathleen Aikens from Monash University’s Faculty of Education calls on policy-makers to engage a wide range of stakeholders in the school design process, so classrooms of the future are designed with a 21st century mindset.

This includes the need for physical spaces to be easily reconfigured for multiple teaching and learning purposes – and even community events – researchers say.

Monash University’s Faculty of Education will officially launch the first Education Futures Spotlight Series Report on Thursday 19 March.

“Accommodating the learning needs of a diverse and increasing population requires forward-thinking and coordinated planning systems,” Professor Deppeler said.

“Yet newly designed schools don’t always realise desired outcomes. A key reason for this is the poor alignment between the intentions of the school design and the needs, practices and values of users in diverse contexts.”

Classrooms of the future must consider the diverse nature of 21st century learning, including population growth, cultural diversity, extreme weather events and increasing temperatures, according to the researchers.

This is why staff must be provided with professional learning opportunities that are sustained and authentic, and have the chance to shape school design processes and teaching practices that evolve over time, they said.

Individual schools should also be assessed regularly to see whether its educational, social and economic benefits align with contemporary expectations placed on learning bodies by parents, students and the government sector.

Research shows that when newly constructed schools are not fit for purpose, retrofits and adaptations can be costly and may not always result in the intended aims of the innovative design.

“Governments in Australia, and internationally, are investing billions of dollars in new school projects. But, it’s critical that new investments in learning are future-resilient and have the ability to adapt to uncertainty and variance,” Dr Aikens said.

Professor Deborah Corrigan, Director of Monash Education Futures, says today’s dynamic education landscape requires innovative thinking, practicality, and big ideas in order to meet the challenges of the increasingly globalised community.

“Monash Education Futures offers space for our thought-leaders to explore some of the big ideas and challenges in teaching and learning. We want to ensure that our research can be translated into impactful, real-world outcomes for the benefit of everyone – as we never stop learning,” Professor Corrigan said.

Monash Education Futures is a collaborative platform where educators, researchers, policy makers, industry and community leaders can come together to map the future of education through research, debate, collaboration and innovation.