Who Owns the Learning Space?

Via Melanie Farrell, NCPDK Emerging Leader
The current trend in education is to ask students to take ownership of their learning. Can that be done in a traditional classroom setting? Today I watched a student do everything but sit in his chair. For the first ten minutes of class, he sat with his legs sprawled. He moved and squirmed in his seat. He was easily distracted and he easily distracted others. As the lesson progressed, he slowly slithered out of his chair. His learning space took form and his learning began; he engaged. No longer was his chair a place of comfort to him. It had become an obstacle. Once he knew he didn’t have to be confined to the conventional learning space, his work flourished and his creativity was unleashed. He stood, he moved, he kneeled. Periodically, he was reminded the chair was near by when he briefly brushed against it, but he never returned to the sitting position during that lesson. Once this student was able to be free of his confinement, he was able to learn in his newfound space. 

Watching this student transform his space before my eyes, I was reminded that all students have different needs when it comes to their optimal learning space. As we try not to deliver a one size fits all lesson, we should also keep in mind that a one size fits all environment does not always work either. If we want students to choose the best learning environment to fit their learning needs, we need to provide them with choices. Here are a few things to consider:
Desks and chairs can still be a good option. Keep them.

Tall tables against a wall. Create an area for students to stand and work. 

Bean bag type chairs offer flexibility. They can be moved to different places in the room.

Rugs. Sitting/laying on the floor provides open space for collaboration.
Sometimes just a few small changes in a student’s environment can open up doors to their learning.
As I watched him become an active learner, I was reminded of the need for student ownership, not only in their learning but their learning space.
If we are going to urge teachers to ask themselves, “Who owns the learning?” I say let’s take it one step further and ask, “Who owns the learning space?”

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