Eclectic learning space

Pramila Kudva, Eclectic learning Spaces, Teacher, Volume 13, Number 3, July – September 2019, Page 30

The “school” meaning “place of instruction” comes from the Latin “scola,” itself derived from the Greek “skhole,” meaning “lecture or discussion.” Interestingly, that Greek “skhole” originally meant “leisure, free time.” The Japanese word for school, gakuen, means “learning garden” or “garden of learning”. Kindergarten is a German word whose literal meaning is “garden for the children”. In other words, each classroom is a learning space.

Working definition 

According to “Designing Spaces for Effective Learning – A Guide To 21st Century Learning Space Design”, Learning space is that which motivates learners to learn, supports collaborative as well as formal practice, provides a personalised and inclusive environment and be flexible in the face of changing needs.

Classroom can be a term that refers to a physical setting for a learning environment, a place in which teaching and learning occur. Learning Space is commonly used as a more definitive alternative to classroom. It can be physical, social, virtual and flexible.

Physical learning space needs no clarification. Practically every other learning space in the Indian Educational set up involves physical space – classrooms in high rises in the urban area, with fixed furniture and less space for movement. ‘Shantiniketan’ concept is not common in an urban set up. 

Social learning space involves interactions between students and collaborative learning situations.

Here is an example from my school. Lower-primary students were working on a project which involved making a fence using ice-cream sticks. Because the sticks had rounded edges they would not stand erect. Students tried cutting the rounded edges. The fence still wouldn’t stand erect. Then a student suggested that the sticks might stand firm if they used some clay. Another student tried using angles to make the fence stay firm around the corners.

The problem-solving and collaborative learning here is long lasting. These lower-primary students used their problem solving skills and critical thinking skills to find a successful solution to the problem they faced.

Hands-on learning and/ or learning by doing are an integral part of the collaborative project-based learning approaches. Collaboration is one of the skills required for the 21st Century.

As educators our goal is to develop the capabilities of students, to help them to engage in learning from varied sources.

Virtual Learning space comes in several forms. It is also known as digital learning or e-learning. 

  1. Computer-Based: Instruction is provided by software installed on a local computer or server. – Many such software  is available in the market today.
  2. Internet-Based: This is similar to computer-based instruction, but in this case, the software that provides the instruction is delivered through the Web. – Khan Academy could be a case in point.
  3. Remote Teacher Online: Instruction is provided by a teacher who interacts with the student via the Internet.
  4. Blended Learning: Instruction comes from two sources – a traditional classroom teacher, and at least one of the forms of virtual learning described above. – Flipped classroom can be an example for this kind of learning.
  5. Facilitated Virtual Learning space: This is computer-based, Internet-based or remote teacher online instruction that is supplemented by a human “facilitator.”

Flexible learning space: These spaces can be created even in the physical learning space. In a formal library set up, a corner can be made available with bean bags and a carpet for a story telling session. Movable furniture can be used in the classroom to provide space for role play, dramatization and the like.

Challenges of using virtual learning space in rural India:

Lack of teaching staff and motivation among students are two of the major reasons behind poor education quality in rural schools. 85% of the schools in villages do not get the benefit of quality education. According to ‘eVidyaloka’  a not-for-profit organization, they have reached out to over 650 students so far through digital classrooms across 13 schools in Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh and Tamilnadu. They also use solar energy to work in places without power supply.

Features of an Effective Learning Space

  1. Encourage students to ask questions because questions unleash knowledge.
  2. Questions should be valued over answers. Given below is a picture of the test corrected by a teacher. 

Example of a Class test

  1. 35, 42, 27        X
  2. 17, 31, 58        X
  3. 55, 87, 91        X

The student has used intelligence in solving this problem. Ask the student the logic behind the answer.  The teacher should also try not to use numbers as bullet marks while asking questions like these.

  • Use a variety of teaching techniques.
  • Classroom learning “empties” into a connected community – To bring in sensitivity into the classroom, to discourage bullying, a visit to the school of less privileged children could be arranged. A special friend’s day could be planned where in the special children – differently abled children could be invited to school and an interaction could be planned.
  • Upskilling of teachers should be an ongoing feature.
  • Assessment should be persistent, authentic, transparent, and never punitive – Assessment should be both summative and formative. It might be a good idea to adopt no hands up policy to involve more students into the learning mode.
  • Criteria for success are balanced and transparent – it should not be measured only on academics. Adequate weightage should be given to co-curricular activities.

Besides these there are a few factors that are essential to the forming of good learning spaces.

  • Lighting: According to Emily Anthes,kids who were exposed to more sunlight during their school day displayed 26 percent higher reading outcomes and 20 percent higher math outcomes than kids in less sunny classrooms.
  • Ergonomics is a factor that is making an impact on the studies of the students. A chair which is not comfortable will make the students stress over an aching back and not concentrate on the learning.
  • Colour: According to Andrea Faber Taylor  et al,children function better than usual if activities are held in green settings. According to Oliver Keiset al blue-enriched bulbs can improve students’ cognitive performance.

Bibliography and references

  1. JISC. (2006). “Designing Spaces For Effective Learning – A Guide To 21st Century Learning Space Design”
  3. Emily Anthes, How Room Designs Affect Your Work and Mood Brain research can help us craft spaces that relax, inspire, awaken, comfort and heal, Scientific American Mind – April 22, 2009
  4. OliverKeisHannahHelbig, Judith Streb, Katrin Hille, Influence of blue-enriched classroom lighting on students׳ cognitive performance. Article inTrends in Neuroscience and Education 3 (3-4) · October 2014.
  5. Andrea Faber Taylor, Frances E. Kuo  and Willima C. Sullivan, Coping with ADD, The Surprising Connection to Green Play Settings, January 1, 2001. 
  6. State of Public (School) Education In Delhi December 2017, , White Paper

Published by Dr. Pramila Kudva

I am a teacher educator currently worrking as a Principal of a reputed school in North Mumbai, have more than 30 years of experience, with several publications to my credit and have authored a book -"From chalk to Talk The Art of Teaching.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: