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Posted on Sep 1, 2011

Reconfiguring Classrooms

Reconfiguring Classrooms

and Finagling Furniture to Promote Pedagogical Shift

They’re not taking it anymore!

Some Christian educational leaders are refusing to allow their teachers to teach their Jetson students in Flintstone classrooms1. And they are doing something about it!

Why, you may ask?

Because these visionary leaders deeply understand that although “some generations are called to be caretakers of what they have inherited, and live and work within what has been

what is comfortable and familiar; other generations are called to serve the purpose of God in times of change. [These other generations] are confronted by unexpected new realities, challenges, and unprecedented opportunities. The ground shifts under their feet; what they perceived to be immutable suddenly gives way to the unexpected.”2

These leaders accept that “we are living in a time of great change”3 and that our current generation of students lives in “a society that is paradoxically socially fragmented and globally connected…; [a society that is] changing our world and consequently the context in which we lead and teach.”4

These leaders are the Issachars of our Christian educational community: understanding the times and knowing what we should do (1 Chronicles 12:32). However, they still affirm and commit to the non-negotiables of Christian education helping students explore and experience what it means to be disciples of Jesus. But they are convinced that the modes of pedagogy must shift to nurture effective discipleship for “such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).

So, what are they doing?

They’re taking advantage of the adage: architecture always wins that the design and shape of a learning space will quickly define the pedagogical default.

For instance, if the student desks always face the front, then …

If student chairs are welded to a desk, then …

If a learning space has more than four walls, then …

They’re utilizing the game-changers to accelerate pedagogical shift: reconfiguring classrooms and finagling furniture.

Here’s a sampling of what they’re doing.

To enlarge the pedagogical repertoire beyond that of teacher-centered instruction, one school5 has eliminated the front of the classroom, exchanged student desks for tables, and installed ceiling-fixed video projectors and large screens to aid with the cultural contextual shift from word to image (photo 1).

This school purchased student chairs with wheels (photo 2) to allow for fluid and efficient movement within the classroom as students moved from one learning environment to another. Also, huddle boards (photo 3) were provided for effective group reporting.

Although not distinctly Christian, another school6 chose to promote transparency of learning spaces, and walled in those spaces with less drywall and lots of glass (photo 4); constructed a circular space that mimics the architectural elements of the UN Security Council meeting room (photo 5); and provided large open spaces that could be curtained off when needed (photo 6).

Furniture selection can sometimes be the game-changer that shifts pedagogy. An Australian Christian school8 has reconfigured its learning spaces and furniture so that there can be a daily choice of carefully designed, diverse zones, filled with campfires – whole-group learning spaces (photo 7);  watering holes – peer-supported learning spaces (photo 8); caves – independent learning spaces (photo 9); and mountaintops – public presentation spaces. Some of our SCSBC schools now have renovated some of their classroom space into a mountaintop specifically designed for presentations of learning (photo 109).

By the way, schools integrating an interactive white board in a classroom are encouraged to view such a learning tool primarily as a student resource centre, and should consider installing it in an appropriate place (and appropriate height) within the classroom for student use, rather than as a replacement for a front-of-the-room white board.

This is just a small sampling of the numerous ways educators in pockets all throughout the world-wide Christian education community are providing creative spaces and furniture to stimulate the use of diverse modes of pedagogy for effective nurturing of discipleship.

For those interested in exploring the myriad possibilities of creating learning spaces for diverse pedagogy, three current resources are recommended: The Language of School Design, Architecture for Achievement, and The Third Teacher, which are available from the SCSBC library.

So, go reconfigure. Feel free to finagle.

Discussion questions: 
What evidence is there to support the observation that we are living in a time of great change, living in a society that is changing our world, and consequently the context in which we lead and teach?
Discussion questions: What evidence is there to support the observation that we are living in a time of great change, living in a society that is changing our world, and consequently the context in which we lead and teach?
To what degree are our students “Jetson”? To what degree are our classrooms “Flintstone”? If such disparity exists, how do we bridge the gap?
What are some of our teaching practices that default pedagogically to the design, shape and furniture of our learning spaces? What could we reconfigure and finagle to promote pedagogical shift for effective nurturing of discipleship?

……………………………………………………..

References

1  Dr. B. Mosbacker, Teaching Timeless Truths with Technology, The Christian Teachers Journal, May 2011, p. 5.

2  Ibid., p.7.

3  Ibid.

4  Ibid.

5  Holland Christian School, Holland, Michigan (www.holandchristian.org).

6  High Tech High, San Diego, California (www.hightechhigh.org).

7  Northern Beaches Christian School, Sydney, NSW, Australia (www.nbcs.nsw.edu.au)

8  Stephen Harris’s presentation, Infrastructure, Tools and Architecture for the 21st Century at The Vancouver Symposium on Christian Education for the 21st Century (www.21stcenturyeducators.com); see also the Sydney Center for Innovation in Learning (www.scil.com.au)

9  Abbotsford Christian Secondary School, Abbotsford, BC (www.abbotsfordchristian.com)

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