Outside the Box: The need for Innovative Learning Environments

The traditional model of the classroom as the primary teaching environment is quickly becoming anachronistic. The teaching method of “chalk and talk” that I grew up with, has been supplanted by more innovative and technological savvy methods. These require a rethink of the way we build and interact with the physical environment of a school. The progression of school design has evolved into “Modern” or “Innovative Learning Environments” (ILEs). The purpose of which is to provide a flexible, changeable, learning environment that is adaptable to a variety of learning and teaching styles. New thinking in school designs accommodate open plan seating and often have temporary or movable walls to allow for adjustment to smaller groups. But the physical design of schools is not the precursor to innovative teaching, rather, schools like Hobsonville Point are designed as examples of form following function.

The focal point of new learning environments is the manifestation of a change in thinking regarding pedagogical approach. The paradigm has shifted from a didactic approach of teacher led education toward collaborative learning, and the learning environments are being modified to reflect that requirement with co-operative spaces. Modern education is about far more than books and lectures. If we examine the skills needed to be successful in society, there are aspects of current education that require a focus that was not even thought of a generation ago. Students today need to have a grasp of digital literacy and a technological fluency that has never been required in modern educational history. Subject material will no longer be taught in isolation, there is a cross-pollination of learning between subjects as the material they discuss crosses the traditional definitions towards a more practical application based curriculum. Beyond strictly academic skills, there is also a burgeoning necessity for students to develop socialization skills as it becomes more and more likely that the future work environments will be collaborative in nature.

For anyone who is used to a traditional classroom, these innovative learning environments can seem chaotic and inefficient but the true benefit of this environment lies in the learning of a skills like self-regulation and the open, collaborative nature of the new classroom designs facilitates this. That openness also facilitates the flow of learning across what would have been brick walls in a traditional classroom. In my subjects, the idea of being able to collaborate with other subjects is exciting. Business students can use their knowledge of business and other subjects (like biology and sustainability) to garner a real world understanding of the theories in a multitude of interest areas. This type of learning is already gaining prominence and what we are doing with innovative learning environment adaptation is eliminating the physical impediments that make it difficult.  The future of learning is not siloed, the use of digital resources and open plan learning is not only preferred but essential to the new skills required in the new century. Digital literacy, connectivity, flexibility and socialization skills are needed as much as traditional numeracy and literacy. The best way to achieve them is to adapt our learning environments to a pedagogy that successfully addresses students’ future needs.


 Benade, L. (2015). The Transformative Educative Prospects of Flexible Learning Environments. New Zealand Journal of Teachers’ Work,12(01), 9-15. Retrieved June 19, 2017, from https://blackboard.aut.ac.nz/bbcswebdav/pid-3897082-dt-content-rid-7307216_3/orgs/CSOC_AE_AK3515/The%20Transformative%20Educative%20Prospects%20of%20Flexible%20Learning%20Environments_Benade.pdf.

“Will innovative learning environments work for everyone?” (2017, March 19). Retrieved June 19, 2017, from http://blog.core-ed.org/blog/2016/04/will-innovative-learning-environments-work-for-everyone.html


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