Student table.
Learning Environment

Does Your Classroom Have an Innovative Learning Environment?

Experts say you need one, and it's vital for your students. 

Learning styles have been continually evolving over the years. What once was a passive learning culture has become an active, collaborative, continually developing learning community. Experts say it’s time to look at your classroom to see if you are meeting 21st century needs.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) studied the DNA of schools around the globe with the goal of discovering innovating learning techniques that align with the 21st century education. What they found was disturbing: Many schools need a major shift in pedagogical practices. According to the OECD, an “Innovative Learning Environment” (ILE) is the answer, where communication, exploration, and collaborative flow are on the rise. A setting that promotes engaged, supported learning is critical for today’s learner.

The OECD developed the ILE framework to help European schools deliver quality instruction of the 21st century.

Some of their ideas include:

Future-forward thinking

A learning environment, generally speaking, is defined as the space in which learning occurs, such as a school, library or lab. Given that technology has become such a vital role in education, this can also include a remote or virtual location. Because it’s future-focused, ILE’s offer student flexibility, includes collaboration and is continually evolving. In other words, students take part in the learning process. Consider classrooms of the past: a single teacher dispensing information while students sat on the sidelines absorbing information. With an ILE, students collaborate and are part of the actual learning process. In fact, they often lead the process itself. In order for a 21st century classroom to produce successful learners, you need modern forms of learning that sponsors individualistic development to continuously grow with your learners.

Establishing partnerships

New Zealand is making headlines with its “Learning and Change Networks,” a government-proposed approach to establish a partnership of knowledge-sharing networks among families, teachers, schools, leaders, and communities. Participants work collaboratively to accelerate student achievement for those yet to achieve national expectations. The initiative, which is gaining global recognition, allows local groups to work together to create opportunities for students. Currently the LCN has grown to encompass 50 networks involving over 300 schools. By connecting education with communities, the responsibility for learning is shared. Additionally, relationships are built with a common purpose: student success.

Virtual learning

The Ministry of Education in New Zealand designed the “Virtual Learning Network”, an interactive resource created for all New Zealand educators. It allows teachers to connect via forums such as discussion and blogs with curriculum support for 2700 schools. This includes video-conferencing, professional development, and allows for greater communication among schools. Its goal is to provide leadership for staff and principals by developing online networks.

Locally practicing

Locally, New Zealand’s Halswell School has been putting innovation into practice effectively. Some ideas include: a large, open communal space, so students in various grades can collaborate and learn; breakout rooms that allow students to quietly move at their own paces; sound fields for teachers to speak to 180 students spread across various areas; Google Docs for teachers and students, which also encourages parental involvement; and team-teaching by educators and self-directed learning by students. One of their biggest strengths: The school enlisted in the community for planning and building, thereby establishing investment in its students.

How can you make your classroom an Innovative Learning Community? Consider your school’s vision. What strategies support the vision? How can the community be a part of the vision? What are you doing to keep your classroom fluid and ever-changing to meet the needs of your students?


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