Use of Space and Time
Student-centered learning requires changing the way instructional time is used and the environments in which learning is experienced. Opportunities to better utilize in-school and out-of-school time to align with individual learner needs, pace, interests, and preferences intersect with pedagogical and instructional approaches (e.g., competency-based learning, blended learning) to make learning more personalized and learning opportunities more accessible.
This transition is made possible through innovative uses of technology for
- assessing student learning;
- facilitating instruction;
- engaging students in content;
- disseminating information and resources;
- providing timely and coherent student feedback;
- partnering with families and stakeholders;
- providing the necessary infrastructure to foster collaboration; and
- encouraging flexible, anytime, anywhere learning opportunities.
Throughout these instructional considerations, the learning space—where learning actually takes place—must be considered. Learning science research continues to affirm the effect that space has on a child’s learning experience.
Just as academic skill and learning transcends classroom walls, so do social, emotional, and behavioral skills, mindsets, and well-being. To emphasize the acquisition and maturation of these skills, educators should be explicit in their vocabulary and regularly verbalize and model the authentic use of skills. Taking time to focus on interactions, relationships, and self-talk creates conducive conditions for overcoming academic and social challenges. Specific attention should be paid to students who come from homes that don’t fit in with the traditional school structure.
Learning environments—including classrooms, common areas, offices, and extracurricular spaces—should reflect a climate and culture of safety, inclusivity, dignity, and support. These areas should represent and celebrate diverse perspectives, achievements, and opportunities, and remain gender neutral and/or gender inclusive. Similarly, there should be positive and proactive language in signage, printed materials, and the school’s online presence.
Learning space design isn’t the only way to personalize student experience; reconfiguring schedules can increase student productivity, amplify student agency, and improve overall well-being. The acclaimed researcher Daniel Pink has cited recent neuroscience findings to support school-day scheduling based on age and development. High school campuses, for example, should start no earlier than 8:30 a.m., while elementary schools should schedule analytical lessons in the morning and brainstorming and creative outlets in the afternoon. These findings also have been backed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
become dependent on adult-driven procedures and routines rather than their own skills and motivation. To deliver the education all students deserve—one that prepares them for the lives they choose—the U.S. education system must address the essential elements of student development beyond academics. When students matriculate through K–12 without the skills necessary to engage in learning, they can’t process the vast amount of instruction that comes their way each day and it becomes daunting, if not impossible, to stay on track. This is the achievement gap.
- Is the space inclusive of race, gender, religion, etc.?
- Consider celebrations of holidays; is inclusivity present?
- Which students are celebrated via signs and art throughout the building/district? Which students are missing?
- Do opportunities exist to connect, expose, and explore nature?
- Does the space provide opportunities for both quiet reflection and collaborative work?
- How might the daily schedule be reconfigured to better accommodate student productivity?
- How might signage and print communication be amended to convey inclusiveness?
- Instead of slips that read “TARDY,” offer a “We’re so glad you made it today.”
- Update the front door from “No entry until 8 a.m.” to “This room opens at 8 a.m. If you arrive before then, you are welcome to go to [designated safe and comfortable place].”
- Is it possible to provide a discrete pantry and laundry room that is accessible to students and families?
- Can an area with a computer kiosk where families can complete forms, applications be made available?
- Is health and movement a priority in the student daily schedule? How might schedules be redesigned to accommodate student health, including wellness/movement breaks?
- Can time be given to extend recess?
- Can physical education be incorporated into the daily schedule?
- Are there alternative forms of physical activity available (e.g., yoga, dance)?
- Can movement and sensory directions be added to hallways?
- What role does student voice play in the development of the space?