The Agile Classroom

Learning Landscape Wednesday, 28 July 2021

Once upon a time, students sat at wooden desks in rows facing the teacher, but that is NOT how things are today - at least not at Living Faith!

On the verge of the grand opening of our new Years 2 and 3 classrooms, it is important to reflect on why we design and decorate our classrooms the way that we do.

Nothing in our classrooms is simply there for decoration - behind every item of furniture, colour palette and design choice is a wealth of research centred on igniting and supporting learning.

We have chosen natural colour palettes, airflow and seamless transitions between indoor and outdoor spaces to create calm and relaxing classroom environments. These design choices are supported by the research of Stephen Hepple and others into optimal classroom environments.

Areas of our school such as the Nature Play Area, Adventure Playground and Outdoor Chapel are not only playground areas but form key learning spaces. Outdoor learning spaces create new authentic learning opportunities for students and capitalise on the natural bushland backdrop of our school.

Open-plan classrooms invite and encourage collaboration between students and teachers. Teachers can be creative, team-teach and learn from one another whilst modelling positive communication and collaboration skills to their students.

At Living Faith, classroom furniture is designed to be agile and comfortable. Neuroscience research shows that the brain can perceive the classroom environment as either a place of comfort and safety or as a place of threat. Only in an environment of safety will the brain fully engage with learning. Therefore, our classrooms aim to make children feel as safe and comfortable as possible. Rows of traditional desks and chairs have been replaced with flexible stadiums, booths, wobble stools, ottomans, bean bags and standing tables. Students are given a choice of learning spaces and furniture that works best for them or for the style of the task they are undertaking. Agile spaces allow teachers and students to creatively change the classroom configuration to meet the needs of the lesson.

Writable surfaces are also found in all classrooms. These are used for prototyping, note-taking, design, drafting and collaborating on ideas. We have found that students are more likely to show creativity, take risks and experiment with their work on a writable surface instead of a book.

In a student-centred classroom, you won’t find teacher desks or excessive decorations. Teachers move around and meet students where they are, modelling agile and flexible work practices. There is no need for clutter or a designated teacher workspace, as this undermines the nature of a shared classroom environment. We are also mindful not to over decorate our classrooms. Sometimes less is more. Research has found that highly decorated classrooms can overstimulate young minds and distract or draw focus. Instead, we keep our displays to a minimum, only displaying items that serve a purpose and contribute to student learning.

Classrooms at Living Faith feature a wide range of learning spaces that cater to individual students’ needs and learning styles. As our new buildings are revealed, see if you can spot these special design features, outdoor spaces and furniture choices in our new classrooms.

- Bianca Ravi, Director of Learning