Education, from kindergarten through post-graduate university study, has changed dramatically in less than a generation. From the conventional model of an instructor lecturing to rows of neatly lined-up students in desks to today’s more team-oriented, experiential learning focus, learning environments look and function differently than before. This shift in learning modes means the design of educational spaces must meet new criteria that respond to learners and the ways they, and society, are evolving.
Designers today are charged with understanding the overall shifts in educational pedagogy without getting ensnared in the particulars of one model of learning over another. Rather than requiring only the acquisition of facts, education as a field is gravitating towards an emphasis on acquiring learning skills—understanding how to get the information one needs, and knowing how to synthesize it and navigate complex situations. Collaboration is a much larger part of a student’s life, and project-based learning is taking the place of multiple-choice worksheets. This focus on active learning is enabling students to think critically to solve problems, ask the right questions, and integrate the information they are seeking, rather than being simply answer-focused or emphasizing rote memorization.
Multi-disciplinary team learning projects also bring students into the community more often, giving them a chance to experience how things work in the world outside of their campuses. Technology helps enable this type of learning, and has also changed the way students learn and access information inside learning environments.
As conventional disciplines of knowledge converge and create fresh domains of inquiry, the idea of learning in ‘silos’ has become dated. Learners—and their instructors—now have to learn to solve problems by calling on expertise from a variety of fields, not only having a depth of knowledge in one or two subjects. As a result, inter- and trans-disciplinary learning is more often occurring in one setting, rather than in a sequence of dedicated classrooms.
Design that responds to contemporary learning must begin with profound user research into, and observation of, instructors and students, as well as factoring in an insightful understanding of the social and cultural issues that shape how communities function and learn, including the lifestyles and cultures of people. Our design approach assumes that diverse groups may have different educational design needs; in addition, adaptability and flexibility in the design of educational spaces is critical to allow spaces to adapt to the changes that are inevitable in learning, technology, and communities.
At Taylor Design we understand the need to manifest strong capabilities with regard to designing for education, and working with academic master-plans and strategic plans to design environments that maximize learning potentials. We begin with the research and observation needed to truly understand a learning community, and apply that knowledge to work with our clients to develop educational designs that support generating the best outcomes for educators, students, and communities.