The 21st Century finds us celebrating diversity more than ever before. A multi-generational population coupled with advancements in technology have pushed the traditional boundaries of learning styles. K-12 and higher education facilities strive to create learning environments that not only cultivate academic achievement and engagement, but adequately prepare students for professional success. As previously discussed on our blog post which highlighted the Evolution of Educational Design, society has recognized the pivotal role that interior design plays in education and how it directly correlates to continued growth and development of skills within the modern workforce. With time and extensive research, the classroom has seen an overhaul from conventional desking and chalkboards to that of flexible benching and seating, mobile devices and interactive technology. This shift towards active learning and teaching is maximizing our return on educational investment and better equipping these generations for life after graduation. Let’s take a look at what design tools and strategies can maximize our students’ learning opportunities and transform their classroom experience.
Image Source: Kimball Case Study, Westinghouse Arts Academy
Designing for Active Learning
The focus of classroom design is too often placed on a square-foot-per-student metric. Rows of neatly configured desks, little to no interaction among students and a ‘sit and listen’ approach to teaching are what we associate with the traditional classroom. This obsolete, one-size-fits-all learning model, however, has proven to inhibit the broad spectrum of activities, behaviors and learning styles that our schools need to support today. K-12 and higher education institutions have begun to adopt activity-based learning methods and design tools in order to strengthen student engagement, improve retention levels and provide a dynamic learning environment that can adapt to their students. These technology-rich spaces support both heads-down and collaborative work, encourage mobility and provide plentiful resources to accommodate varied learning styles. In order to reap the bountiful benefits of active learning, we must furnish our classrooms and educational environments with the proper design tools and furniture pieces.
“The furniture design of our classrooms allows for a mobile rather than static classroom environment; student tables and chairs lend themselves to a wide array of configurations with minimal transitional time. The collaborative space furniture is coming to life each and every day as the students find various ways to gather and manipulate the furniture that make the learning process more comfortable and easy.”
Catherine Cassidy, Principal of Southside High School
Kimball Case Study
Image Source: Global Furniture Case Study, George Brown College
Flexible and mobile seating options are what the active learning environment requires. Reconfiguration capabilities ensure students have the capability to quickly switch tasks and remain engaged, whether working individually or collaboratively with fellow classmates. Kimball’s Flip®, Poly™ and Wish™ chairs are well adapted for learning spaces, offering glide and caster options, optional tablet arms, convenient nesting capabilities and ergonomic components. Global Furnitures’s Sonic™ provides extreme durability and a plethora of design options that make it an simple selection for classrooms, lectures halls or even a café. Boasting a rotational foldaway tablet, under-seat storage and casters, the Ad-Lib Scholar from The Senator Group easily caters to high-performance learning. Integra Seating’s Coffee House Collection includes integrated technology and tablet arm options, easily integrating into libraries, student unions and lobbies, as shown below at Iowa State University. And finally, Safco’s active seating line, which includes sit-to-stand stools and swivel balls, offers perfect perching and quick touch-down options for students.
Image Source: Integra Seating, Iowa State University Lobby
Multi-Purpose Desking and Tables
Desking units, benching stations and other multi-purpose tables used within an active learning space must provide both social and technological connectivity. These surfaces are designed to encourage interaction and facilitate a broad range of activities. Arcadia’s Flirt® collection includes an array of occasional, meeting and multi-purpose tables that are available in a mix of shapes, sizes, heights and details. The collection features complimentary lounge and task seating, integrated technology capabilities and presentation tools that double as dividers for added privacy or delineating space. Global Furniture’s multifaceted Swap and 2gether tables can be utilized in a variety of applications within K-12 or higher education facilities. Kimball also offers numerous desking and table options for the educational environment. Dock® Training tables are easily rearranged with glides or casters and can be specified as height-adjustable. The Xsede® collection is easily customizable and extremely versatile, coupling a minimalistic aesthetic with countless options for further personalization. Privacy panels, seamless power, storage and height-adjustable features give students highly functional and flexible spaces. SurfaceWorks is another resource for durable, multi-purpose tables geared towards both K-12 and higher education.
Image Source: Global Furniture Case Study, The York School
Mobile Devices and Accessories
Contemporary privacy screens, mobile media carts and customizable glassboards are just a few ancillary classroom tools that support an active learning space. From Clarus’ transformative Flip, a writable glassboard that doubles as an acoustic panel, to the Kimball Teem® media wall, which can be equipped with monitors or maker boards, these adaptable instruments cater to students’ unique learning styles and help boost engagement. Clarus glassboards can be outfitted with high-definition projection surfaces, 200 CBC color offerings and seamless media integration. Kimball’s Xsede collection features a highly versatile media cart for connectivity on the go. Hightower offers multiple tools that can be incorporated into an active learning environment, including mobile marker boards, acoustical panels and freestanding space dividers for quiet heads-down work in a moment’s notice.
Image Source: Clarus Glassboards
Make sure to visit our blog post on the Evolution of Educational Design for additional educational products not featured here.
Cultivating a Diverse Educational Experience
Investing in the tools necessary for maximum flexibility and engagement will not only enrich the educational experience, it will provide students with highly valuable skills and traits essential in the professional field. Design tools like those mentioned here, which adapt to an array of learning styles and grow alongside our students, will facilitate high-performance learning and offer a more personalized education. Contact the team at CDI for active learning design strategies and furniture solutions tailored to you and your students.
Featured Image Source: Kimball Case Study, Southside High School
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Corporate Design Interiors (CDI) is an industry-leading commercial furniture dealership whose award-winning product knowledge, thoughtful design coupled with strategic planning deliver functional and inspiring interiors designed to foster employee well-being, productivity and engagement. CDI’s relentless focus on delivering positive workplaces mirroring the culture and vision of companies while delivering a high value investment has earned CDI diverse clients including; established Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits/public sector and energetic startups.
As a “Select” Kimball dealer, CDI’s excellence in sales, partnership, quality improvement, community involvement and overall business best practices earned it the 2017 Kimball Premier Partner Award. CDI was selected among 52 other Kimball Select dealerships throughout the country for this industry-leading honor, earning additional praise for its company culture and enterprise practices.
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