Characteristics of innovative learning spaces

Innovative learning spaces

Curriculum standards have changed over the past decade and now reflect what young people must know as they become adults in an increasingly complex and technological society. There is an emphasis on problem and project-based collaborative learning, in and outside of the classroom, along with a move towards student-centered and personalized learning. Traditional classrooms are poorly equipped to support these forms of learning experiences.

Creative educators are transforming their classrooms, and other areas of their schools, to create engaging and innovative learning spaces, even when budgets are limited. New schools around the world have been designed and built to support innovative ways of teaching and learning, with input from teachers, parents, and young people. These spaces support collaboration, communication, and creativity more effectively than traditional classrooms.

In this post, I’ll provide an overview of the characteristics of innovative learning spaces, in and outside the school setting, followed by an annotated list of resources for educators who are interested in transforming their classrooms and schools.

If you can design the physical space, the social space, and the information space all together to enhance collaborative learning, then that whole milieu turns into a learning technology, and people just love working there, and they start learning with and from each other.

Learning centers

Learning centers, also known as learning stations, are commonly seen in preschool and elementary classrooms. The center-based approach is rooted in learner-centered pedagogy, where students take an active role in their learning. In elementary classrooms that have adopted the center-based approach for instruction, space is often designated for group work and projects.

In recent years, middle school and high school teachers have found that the center-based approach has benefits. In high schools that follow the 90-minute class schedule, the learning center approach can be an effective use of time and space. Teachers report that this approach makes it easier to conduct formative assessments and modify instruction as needed. They also report that center-based approach supports technology integration.

Not all learning centers are located within classroom walls. For example, schools have transformed computer labs, libraries, and outdoor spaces into flexible learning environments. These spaces often have multiple functions and serve multiple grade levels throughout the course of the day.

Characteristics of innovative learning centers and spaces

  • Flexible space that can be easily adjusted to meet support the learning activities
  • Allow for movement
  • Allow for various groupings
  • Allow for hands-on exploring, making, and building
  • Allow for curriculum integration, including the arts
  • Support social interaction and development
  • Support cognitive skills and development
  • Support the integration of technology
  • Provide opportunities for students to learn through examples