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Do open plan classrooms really benefit learning?

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Brett Henebery | 21 Oct 2015, 09:58 AM Agree 0
HAVE YOUR SAY: Do open plan classrooms really benefit student learning?
  • wasUK | 21 Oct 2015, 12:52 PM Agree 0
    I worked in an Academy in the UK that had 6 big open plan areas. I had to teach in these areas and the noise could be problematic, particularly as our Academy had split lunchtimes. Within a year of opening we closed the open plan areas to make 15 additional classrooms.

    I found that some quiet areas worked fine, but open plan was an issue. At a Harris Academy the ICT Teachers taught in an open plan area at the bottom of a 3 story building. This was horrific for them as they had to wear a headset system for lessons just so student could hear them.

    It would be beneficial to see some studies conducted into this. The trend now is that open plan offices which were once the thing in the 90's are now found to be non-beneficial to work production, could it be that we are saying the same thing in 20 years about open plan classrooms?
  • Neill | 21 Oct 2015, 01:26 PM Agree 0
    The headlines tend to cloud the issue. First and for most we should talk about effective pedagogy (quality teaching and learning ) and designing spaces to meet the learning needs of all learners. This would include the opportunity to work with and learn from a range of teachers, some learning in very large, medium and small groups. It includes finding strategies to engage each and every learner with a range of learning experiences, it includes the ability to create different learning zones, some for creating, some for quiet study, some for direct instruction, some for coaching, some for independent learning... Try doing that in a traditional rectangle, one teacher 30 children! Any educator who is promoting a single mode of teaching and learning- teacher at the front dictating to the whole class or teaching the whole class the same thing has failed to take notice of the research of the last 50 years about quality teaching and learning, of neuroscience and in the potential and power of collaboration. The same advocates for traditional spaces, one teacher 30 children may well be most comfortable with groups of children copying notes from the whiteboard into their books, in 2015? Come on, time for education to move into the 21st century with technology, medicine, communication, design... Again I re iterate focus on quality teaching and learning first.
  • Paul | 22 Oct 2015, 02:18 PM Agree 0
    I have seen effective teaching and deep learning in a rectangular classroom with one teacher. I have seen one teacher in a rectangular classroom varying the working environments for children. I have seen one teacher in a rectangular classroom collaborate with other 'teachers' and have them involved with the children's learning. I have seen one teacher in a rectangular classroom running a democratic classroom where the children directed their learning. I saw some of that last century too and I can see today. Neill - you are right it's about the teacher not the space - the single cell or the newer style.
  • MIke | 02 Mar 2016, 08:50 PM Agree 0
    @Neill having barn spaces doesn't evaporate the 1:30 ratio, it just makes it 4:120. All the buzzy ideas you listed can be done in a square box - direct instruction / chalk n talk / small groups / tutorials / self-elected workshops / collaborative learning / quiet time / whole class discussions / whole class silent reading / collaborative BYOD or ICT work / science practicals / think pair share / single-student conferencing / blah blah blah. Any 2nd year teacher knows the value of pedagogical variation.
    I teach in a barn space, and the noise is terrible. I can control what happens in a classroom but I can't control what other teachers are doing or what their kids are doing. My small group discussion intro is in direct conflict with the English class' 15mins SSR. A teacher packs up 2mins before I need to and there's my plenary destroyed due to 'pack up' noise spill. Thinking space? Concentration time? Get real.
    And have you actually read any research into academic learning? Why don't you take a few journal articles to your local shopping mall and try and absorb some ideas...
  • Dylan Sedgewick | 10 Aug 2016, 09:53 AM Agree 0
    Neill and other pro-open plan classrooms are ignoring significant factors in your zeal for the open plan classroom. Firstly, no two or more student cohorts are identical. At my school, we have a large number of studebts from non-English speaking backgrounds. Research suggests that theydo not prosper in areas where there is overcrowdinf and excessive noise levels. I addition, we are a school in a lower socio-economic area. many of our students are disruptive, untrustworthy and frequent absconders fro the little 'nooks' that exist. Thin 'temporary' room dividers disadvantage our senior students when they are trying to learn or complete tasks that contribute to their final results.

    Some younger students are incapable of learning independently and find the large, often noisy open spaces intimidating. In addition , we have a growing number of students coming through to the senior years with very poor general and applied knowledge. With some student cohorts, there are serious problems produced by open plan learning spaces.
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