Future Schools: New Approaches to Learning & Student Voice

By Andrew Iverson

There’s a common saying, “Youth are our future.” Now they are the key to transforming the future of education.



Traditionally, decisions about school facilities have been made by boards and committees with limited student input. Most often these are facilities designed for teaching - narrow corridors lined with classrooms, in which you find rows of desks for students and a teacher in front.

Major trends in education are emerging that “hack” the traditional model by looking for more student input and increased engagement. The goal is to create facilities for learning.

Considering the lifespan of an average school – you may end up with 10 superintendents, 100 board members, 300 teachers … and 6,500 students. To support the new goal, we need to start working with students to understand what type of spaces they learn in best.

Based on values of rigor and relevance, some of these models include:

  • Project-based learning (PBL)
  • Self-directed learning
  • Team teaching
  • Looping (long-term student-teacher relationship)
  • Internships
During the Association for Learning Environments’ Learning SCAPES conference in San Diego, I was able to see firsthand examples of highly successful schools that implemented these models and speak to students engaged in deeper learning. Key traits exhibited include:

  • Schedule – Flexible, student-driven, extended days and dedicated time for advisors
  • Relationships – Teachers guiding student exploration; team building through projects; and community engagement
  • Small learning communities – Commonly 125 students, to a max of 600
  • Longer class blocks – 90 or 180 minutes
  • Personalized learning choices – Student initiated and based on interests
In Iowa, Shive-Hattery is partnered with programs such as Waukee APEX, IowaBIG and the ACE Mentor Program where students work alongside our staff on real-world projects. These programs are pioneers akin to those shared at the conference. Facilities across the nation are starting to reflect this change in ideology. Utilization of space is changing. Everything is fair game for student project display. Glass walls allow you to see classroom activities; corridors become break-out areas for project teams; and the line has been blurred between what is “school” and what is “business”. A variety of furniture is critically important - one size does not fit all. A great example of a facility designed to support the school's project based pedagogical vision is the 2015 James D. MacConnell Award winner: Dr. Phinnize J. Fisher Middle School in Greenville, SC.

Participating in these national discussions ensures that, when opportunities arise, I’m able to ask the questions that help move school districts beyond their comfort zone and give strong suggestions to enhance student learning.

So bring your administrators, teachers AND students. Let’s get the conversation started, “How can we change education together?”

Andrew Iverson, AIA, ALEP, LEED AP BD+CAndrew Iverson, AIA, ALEP, LEED AP BD+C
800.798.3040
aiverson@shive-hattery.com
  I believe that a quality education is the greatest gift we can give our youth. As an architect and education facility planner, I can directly contribute to the quality of education through the design of learning environments that are safe, healthy and support a wide range of learning styles. Students, faculty and staff appreciate my responsiveness to their needs. With a calm approach that eases tensions during tough moments, I am allowed to bring these communities together, build understanding, and make such facilities a reality.

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