The Universal Language of Active Learning Is Architecture

Active learning spaces support the creative process.


This elementary school design maximizes square footage with movable walls and repurposes underutilized space resulting in both formal and informal collaborative spaces.

Our educational system has been conditioned over time to embrace the concept that we are only limited by our imagination. However, the reality is that physical and emotional barriers within our educational environments can limit the imagination process. As advocates of student achievement, we actively pursue the elimination of environmental barriers by designing educational spaces that inspire innovation. Spaces that kindle an innate sense of pride and inquiry that drives the imagination allowing you to place your students on a pathway to success!


In this high school, the design integrates available technology and daylight harvesting to promote teaming and experiential learning.

Through architecture, we continue to find new ways of applying technology and evolving the learning environment to advance teaching methodologies and inspire innovation for all age groups. As active learning focuses on how the students learn, not just what they learn, the spaces in which students learn become critical to success. The design of the classroom can help ensure students become actively engaged encouraging more complex thought processes and improving comprehension. These initiatives utilize technology and flexible classroom design to support traditional instruction while promoting a combination of active learning strategies that engage students through teaming, project collaboration, and experiential learning.

Five WAys to Engage the active learning model:

1. Classroom Flexibility and Adaptability: Maximizing available square footage with movable walls, moveable furniture, and expandable educational zones.

2. Accommodating Varying Modes of Teaching and Learning: Focused, presentation, and collaboration - both formal and informal.

3. Technology Enabled: Integrating available technology, daylight harvesting, thermal comfort, and acoustic control.

4. Transparency: Classrooms with maximum glass to corridor ratios fostering camaraderie, collaboration, and social interaction.

5. Inspirational Zones and Experiential Pathways: Student centered learning with color and texture promoting multi-sensory stimulation.


The design in this higher education environment incorporates transparency and inspirational zones promoting intellectual collisions in a “see-and-be-seen” environment.

The physical places we create for active learning need to not only support the creative process, but also provide environments that become catalysts for creativity and collaboration. Each mode of learning can become a crossing of diverse interests and ideas leading to new and better ways of student problem solving and idea generation. Whether you are looking to build new or repurpose existing space, working with an experienced design firm such as Shive-Hattery can provide you with cost effective options to make the most of the available space and help you create your own active learning environments!