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Impact of School Architecture and Master Plan on Learning Outcomes

Posted on July 10, 2018 | by Vinod Kakumanu

It has been a common observation that when schools are built, the emphasis on the finer correlations between pedagogy and infrastructure is missed out. Typically, school promoters emphasize on the construction of a school building which is just in compliance with a given board of affiliation. The directions given by the education boards or councils are generic, primarily containing the directives about the size of the school land, the area of the labs, playground, number of facilities and the size of the classroom. Then, as a measure to preclude crowding, maximum strength a class is fixed.

Despite the competition between schools, the learning environment design does not find the place it deserves. Those who want to start a school and take school building as a brick and mortar construction with only quantitative not qualitative difference from any other sort of building, are not few. In the resulting scenario of sheer ignorance or compromise, ideas of ‘collaborative learning’,  ‘interactive learning’ and campus experience turn into irrelevant terms with hardly any impact on teaching-learning practices of schools and boarding schools are no different from bunkers. We have seen that the school promoters often find it difficult to understand the emphasis that is placed on the master plan and architecture by the international education organizations.

 

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Further, it is often seen that there is no dearth of those who think that educational technology can spruce up the classroom and make up for the shortcomings of the classroom architecture. Here again, a flaw in the understanding of learning space design is evident. Classroom technology mainly including computer-enabled learning, Interactive White Board etc. definitely form an important part of the learning space, but they are neither practical for every grade nor are they uniformly efficient for old and small children. School promoters and educators realize that it is not sufficient to come up with technology abled classrooms to facilitate best learning outcomes.

The guiding principle for the architects and master planners while planning and designing school infrastructure is to make central the student experience and learning outcomes.

The school architecture is becoming more and more crucial in bringing learning experiences to classrooms in-line with the evolving curricula. It is not just about the classrooms, there is an undeniable need to attend the external context and landscape design as well. With such trends coming to the fore, the focus is moving towards designs that facilitate holistic education experience.

Consummate school architecture and masterplan are the ones that place focus on both tangible and intangible components of the learning environment, they focus on connectivity between teacher and students and freedom of interaction among the students as much as temperature, light, and ventilation. In fact, connectivity between staff and students and freedom of interaction should be focused upon in the external contexts too.  While these are the characteristics of an ideal school design, we have a long way to go before we could create a culture where a perfect school architectural design becomes a priority of the school promoters.

Edupreneurs and academicians agree that the learning environment must modernize both with respect to the curriculum and the infrastructure. It’s evident from several outstanding examples that the 21st century has thrown doors open for accelerated, inclusive and efficient teaching-learning but only for those with a modernized outlook. Master planners and designers have immense value to add with their craft and imagination.

The learning environment and the educational ecosystem should be child-centric rather than instructor-centric. This approach is essential to achieve the objectives of the 21st-century schools. Nevertheless, the majority of the classrooms still practice the same old transmissive style of teaching-learning making the student passive or withdrawn. The change in the design of the classroom would translate into the change in the attitude of students and learning outcomes, a number of researches have been conducted to determine decisively the correlation between modern classrooms and educational outcomes.

The researches have even suggested that dropout rates would reduce if the facilities of the government schools are thoughtfully constructed and maintained. Researchers are of opinion that the ideal learning environment of the higher classes can never be made by inserting monotonous rows of desks giving it a look of a factory.

Pedagogy is influenced by sociocultural and socioeconomic circumstances. It has been influenced by researches in the field of psychology especially child psychology, cognition, memory, and learning. In the 1990s, with the advent of theories like constructivism in the field of psychology and education there came a marked shift in the perspectives of the educators and learning space designers and they began to stress upon conversational, interactive, collaborative make-up of the instructional environment rather than the stereotypical top-down broadcast model of learning. The theories that evolved from these progressive views had their impact on learning modalities like curriculums and learning environment. The effect of the surroundings on the receptiveness of the student is apparent across grades.

We recommend school promoters to opt for school master plan, school architecture and school interior designing services from professional agencies with exclusive expertise in designing 21st-century learning environments.

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Vinod Kakumanu

Founder & Consultant - School Serv

Vinod Kakumanu heads a team of school services professionals and is an independent commentator on Indian school education scenario. Vinod has assisted school promoters establish 35+ schools besides providing ancillary services to over 1000 schools across India. He envisions a future where quality education is made available to every child of the country. The focus he places on the quality of the deliverables and customer satisfaction has made him renowned in the field of K-12 school education.

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