All you need to know about open-plan classrooms.
Many countries have started embracing open-plan classrooms. Finland, for example, has long been a pioneer in innovative classroom design, with many of its schools now featuring open-plan layouts. Australia has also embraced open-plan classroom designs to create more adaptable and flexible learning environments, especially in new school buildings. The United Kingdom has recently adopted them, particularly in primary schools. The United States has likewise implemented them, to create more collaborative and interactive learning spaces. New Zealand has also implemented them. How do they work?
What are open-plan classrooms?
Open-plan classrooms are learning areas designed to offer larger, more flexible learning spaces, allowing teachers to collaborate more easily with students, and providing more opportunities for group work and cross-curricular learning. They often use movable furniture and natural light to create a bright and airy environment, as well as technology to enhance learning. Acoustic panels and other sound-absorbing materials are used to reduce distractions and create a more focused learning environment. Open-plan classrooms are seen as a way to promote collaboration, creativity, and student-centered learning. What benefits do they have?
Benefits of open-plan classrooms:
Open-plan classrooms offer a more adaptable and flexible learning environment, allowing for a variety of learning activities and arrangements. They also promote collaboration between students and teachers. They provide more space and visibility, which allows free movement between workstations and gives teachers a better visual of what is happening at each station. This translates into providing teachers with opportunities for academic support while providing behaviour management. Further, they are more cost-effective than traditional classrooms due to fewer walls and materials needed for the building.
Challenges of open-plan classrooms:
The absence of walls means open-plan classrooms can be noisy, lack privacy, have increased distractions, are limited in space, and lack inclusivity. Noise and distractions can distract students, as there are so many visual and audio stimuli, while a lack of privacy and limited space can make it difficult for them to focus on learning that requires quiet reading or one-to-one interactions with the teacher. Inclusivity may not be suitable for those with sensory processing issues, attention difficulties, or other learning challenges.
Therefore, it's imperative to create a classroom environment that is conducive to learning and caters to all students, regardless of their learning needs. This means providing students with quiet spaces, comfortable furniture, and tools such as noise-cancelling headphones. Additionally, digital tools can be used to assess each student's progress. Consider a tool that gives immediate feedback to the student on preset assessment questions for particular objectives. They can move on to the next learning objective if they score well on the assessment. They are given extra reading material if they fell below a threshold. Do you want to try it? Join E-spaces at the BETT Show in London to experience this app in real-time.
Open-plan classrooms have raised concerns about their impact on student well-being and academic performance, but the specific requirements of the school and students will determine their effectiveness. When deciding whether to use them, careful thought must be given to their potential advantages and disadvantages.