A key factor in the success of educational spaces in terms of learning outcomes is how well the environment supports the well-being of students and teachers. Research reveals that well-designed spaces can impact physical and mental health, as well as the ability to learn effectively.
What does ‘well designed’ mean, beyond the functionality of a space?
It means that the process of learning is supported, as is the diversity of the nature and style of our learners.
THE PROCESS OF LEARNING
Modern tech means instant access to information, so the skills our next generation needs are less about retaining knowledge and more about learning how to learn, how to discern, and how to be social and collaborative to support creativity, critical thinking and innovation.
“With automation and artificial intelligence rapidly transforming the workforce, students need to be equipped with a range of skills that go beyond traditional academic subjects. They need to be taught critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, and teamwork – skills that are in high demand in the modern workplace.”
-spaces that facilitate
- creativity, innovation and critical thinking
- social skills
- diverse learning styles
-appropriate spaces and resources, including new technologies available to them and students in the classroom.
In support of creativity and learning to collaborate – the birthplace of innovation – teacher-at-the-front spaces are now rare. Instead of the rigid learning environments of old, students need flexible, dynamic spaces.
“While education design continues to evolve into more collaborative and inclusive environments that foster diverse learning styles and student/teacher needs, we are in the midst of another shift where these approaches are being perfected and improved. …… The classroom of the future embraces collaborative, open spaces to meet the students and teachers where they are. Teachers have more flexibility to create the environment they need. Students have the flexibility to learn in the style that best suits them”.
BENTLEY MILLS, Trends, November 2022
For example, breakaway pods – a series of smaller spaces within classrooms dedicated to different activity types, for student-led learning, but still within the supervisory eye of the teacher.
Flexi spaces promote movement.
A varied landscape both inside and outside, with access to both, helps concentration.
For example, stackable seating modules that can be reconfigured and climbed on allow varied body postures, encouraging more active movement rather than long periods of sitting still.
Furniture that folds away and has wheels means spaces can be reconfigured easily.
‘Expeditionary’ learning spaces where children can explore (including outside) or do more activities on their own.
Hopscotch carpet tiles or ‘pathways’ that weave around a space to encourage movement.
Varying wall and flooring colours or patterns designate space between these environments in the classroom so students have the freedom to learn in the way that fits them.
Quiet classrooms allow levels of comfort that support learning.
Acoustic – so learners can hear easily without distraction
Visual – quieter colours and patterns, simple furnishings.
A more neutral classroom allows the teacher and students to infuse their personalities into the space.
There is a growing understanding of the need to foster inclusivity and diversity within educational institutions.
Designing to support the needs of the neurodivergent benefits everyone.
Neuro-aesthetics can help create inclusive educational spaces that celebrate diversity by using visually appealing designs, accommodating unique needs and promoting a sense of belonging for all students.
Fit for purpose – long-lasting materials especially flooring where replacement is a major cost and disruption.
Health and sustainability
Air quality – materials should support a healthy environment and there should be a flow of clean air, a comfortable temperature that’s fit for the activities in the space and lots of natural daylight.
Many new facilities must abide by strict sustainability standards and may have net zero goals; it is more important than ever to specify products with the health of students in mind.
“A healthy environment starts with the floor beneath your feet.”
Focus on Flooring
Flooring choices help designate space and purpose:
– identify zones for who uses the space (eg a year group or classroom group),
-what activities belong in the space (eg muted for quiet collaboration/focus or bold for stimulating active learning)
– way-finding (vibrancy and pattern in common spaces like hallways indicate a more playful environment where noise levels can increase, and can visually aid navigation).
FLOORING TRENDS IN NEW ZEALAND
In New Zealand, we still see colour blocking in strong colours, but not necessarily bright colours. Tiles are the preferred solution both for cost savings where damage necessitates replacement, and to create varied zones and visual interest with ease.
“The stylistic trend we are seeing in New Zealand is for softer colours and less heavily contrasting combinations of colours, to create calm environments. In terms of materials, demand is for recycled nylon, based on durability and sustainability. Where budget is a high concern the default might be to recyclable nylon rather than recycled”.
UMESH DAYAL, OWNER/OPERATOR OF HERITAGE CARPETS
If you are a designer looking for expert advice on flooring choices that can support positive learning spaces, contact us to learn more.
Read the companion blog, Education Design Part 1: Essentials for the Physical Environment – the compulsory requirements from the Ministry of Education for New Zealand schools.
Read about the wool versus nylon debate for State schools in New Zealand.
Read Designing for Wellness for more in-depth information on designing for well-being – focus on the workplace.
Heritage Carpets is the sole distributor of modulyss, Bentley Mills and Fletco Carpets in New Zealand. We supply custom colours on select ranges, and full custom broadloom and rug solutions.