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October 28, 2015

HOW TO BUILD A GREAT SCHOOL?

By Araceli Gallego

Schools are places to learn and learning is an active process. Today more than ever we are aware of the different ways we learn and with technology now it seems the sky is the limit. Yet still governments, school owners, investors and educators seem to fail on how to build a great school, a school reference to other schools. Maybe it is not that simple.

Firstly, we have to decide what kind of learning experience we want to provide from the very initial stage: the conceptualization of our nursery, school, college or university. The style of learning will determine the style of teaching and the space required. Adapting afterwards could be complicated, time consuming and costly.

Today’s new generations are exposed to so many different stimuli that as educators, we have to be creative to capture their attention and direct it to the contents we want them to learn.

If you see the classroom layout has not changed much from the time of the Industrial Revolution. Even the word itself “classroom” is directly linked in our minds to a rectangular space, with rows of tables and chairs for the pupils, a bigger table and a chair facing them for the instructor and a blackboard with chalk.
This is the factory-model classroom, perfected into what is now called the Western Model of Schooling, spread all over the world.
Classroom Old Picture
Image from Illinois Digital Archive

This design is perfect for one of the many styles of learning, the one that requires the students to listen and the instructor to lecture. If, for example, you are a “learner by doing”, this type of classroom model might not be the best.

According to Prakash Nair, architect, school guru and writer of the book 30 Strategies for Education Reform, there are at least 18 learning modalities:

• Independent study
• Peer tutoring
• Team collaborative work
• One on one learning with the teacher
• Lecture format with the teacher at center stage
• Project-based learning
• Technology based learning
• Distance learning
• Research via the internet
• Student presentation
• Performance based learning
• Seminar style instruction
• Hands on project based learning
• Naturalist learning (by observing nature)
• Social and emotional learning
• Art based learning
• Storytelling ( floor seating)
• Team teaching

Now, those are quite a lot of different styles, right? But as schools don’t have unlimited space and finances are always present, how can we find a solution for this dilemma? By creating spaces that are flexible and can be transformed into something different depending on the use, the users and the type of information that needs to be learned.

We need spaces that are flexible and can be transformed into something different depending on the use, the users and the type of information that needs to be learned.

We all would agree that today our children and teens have a more active approach to learning. The way they use the web shows it. For them it is a not only a social tool but also now they know where to have their questions answered. If wrong or right, it is a different matter. The fact is that technology is a must and any new educational institution must have it very present and incorporate it from the early stages of design. Gamification is here to stay and it is one of the trends in education to watch.

We must also consider that now the focus is not only on the transfer of knowledge but also on the development of skills. Technology is hastening the page of our societies’ evolution and studies and careers that didn’t exist 20 years ago are now in high demand ( social media strategists, web developers, videogame programmers to name a few).

StoneHill Education can assist you in the conceptualization, design and development of your educational project. Our team of experts will study and recommend the best way for your school to flourish. First consultation is totally free of charge. Don’t hesitate and send us an email to info@stonehilleducation.com.

StoneHill Education Team