Perhaps you’ve heard the term “classroom of the future” before. It may immediately bring to mind an image of an elaborately set-up room, with advanced technological features and laboratory-style furniture. While the physical aspects and features of classrooms are progressing and are certainly significant, equally important are the pedagogical benefits that future classroom design can provide and the advantages it can give both teachers and students in that regard.
The physical design of the future classrooms themselves optimally accommodate certain learning space necessities for STEM instruction. For example, hands-on learning spaces that allow for use of equipment and other training material are important. Along the same lines, space that allows for group collaboration is essential for STEM teaching purposes. Furniture in the classrooms should be mobile and flexible to allow rearranging as needed, and storage space should be offered that is easily accessible for students and teachers. (Kennedy)
The effective delivery of STEM curriculum within the classroom is also very important, and new advances in classroom design can help promote it. There have been efforts to furnish STEM-oriented classrooms in ways that prioritize teaching “the skills and training needed” in related fields (Kennedy). Delivering STEM curriculum in “more innovative and effective ways” is essential in achieving these goals, such as through classrooms “that facilitate collaboration” and “enable group learning activities that integrate STEM subjects” (Kennedy). There are aspects of STEM (especially aspects of science) that cannot be learned purely through the use of textbooks and necessitate a more learner-centered approach; curriculum therefore needs “to be examined and aligned with learner-centered practices if teacher instruction is to become truly learner-centered” (Yager). New classroom design can promote these practices and allow them to be implemented.
While the new design of classrooms lends itself to collaboration and STEM learning goals, the classrooms must also be utilized correctly by students and instructionally leveraged by teachers in ways that achieve this level of learning and collaboration. This can be done through practices such as engaging students in activities/projects that promote conceptual learning through experience and teachers taking on a facilitator or guide-like role in the classroom. Acting as facilitators may redefine the roles of teachers a bit, but the student-centered and student-driven learning benefits can be immense (Yager). The instructional advantages are not isolated to just STEM-related concepts either, as these classrooms and practices can help develop communication skills, effective listening, and understanding of differing perspectives for students (Bowman).
So while the physical design of a classroom is what may be most striking initially, the pedagogical benefits and the ways students and teachers can utilize these spaces for effective learning and instruction are what truly makes the “classroom of the future” important.
Butler, Andrew, et al. “Integrating Cognitive Science and Technology Improves Learning in a STEM Classroom.” Educational Psychology Review, vol. 26, no. 2, June 2014, pp. 331-340.
Bowman, Richard F. “Learning in Tomorrow’s Classrooms.” Clearing House, vol. 88, no. 2, Mar/Apr2015, pp. 39-44.
Kennedy, Mike. “Furnishing STEM Spaces.” American School & University, vol. 89, no. 2, Oct. 2016, pp. 24-27.
Yager, Robert. “The Role of Exploration in the Classroom (STEM).” Society, vol. 52, no. 3, June 2015, pp. 210-218.