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Learning Space Pilot Programs: Everything You Need to Know

David Jakes

Improving what students do at school requires a multi-faceted approach.  Redesigning curriculum, rethinking assessment, providing social-emotional learning opportunities, improving student attendance and behavior, and other factors combine to create a challenging construct for improving schools. 

To address school improvement, many schools have adopted a Portrait of A Graduate profile as a set of guiding principles for what students should know and be able to do upon graduation.  This admirable approach typically defines contemporary expectations for learners in 2024 and beyond.

One of the significant hurdles in meeting these goals lies in creating a forward-looking educational experience for 2024 and beyond within environments designed in the 1970s.

It’s time to rethink the spaces of schools.

How can you strategically improve the spaces of your school to advance the educational experience you offer? Consider developing a learning spaces pilot program that tests spatial designs that are created to manifest the school experience as defined by your expectations.

What is a learning spaces pilot program?

A learning spaces pilot experience tests spatial designs for classrooms.  Successful programs generally are a semester in length and can involve numerous classrooms. The pilot aims to test furniture, flooring, lighting, color palettes, whiteboards, and technology, as well as understand teacher and student behaviors in the space, preferences for specific aspects of the designs, and how multiple designs impact the teaching and learning experience. I have done pilot programs with a single pilot space shared by teachers, as well as a pilot experience that involved ten classrooms across a K-12 environment.

What are the benefits?

Schools that engage in a pilot experience develop a deep understanding of what works and what doesn’t. Classroom redesign is expensive, so pilot programs help schools be wise stewards of their finances. Also, the decisions made about classroom design impact decades of use - it’s critical to get the right information to make the right decisions. The pilot program also prepares the school or district to understand the organizational needs -budgeting, maintenance, procurement, and delivery/installation, as well as other components, that are a part of the “behind-the-scenes” work that must be accomplished to engage in spatial change.

What are the components of a successful program?

Successful pilot programs are based on an inclusive design process that involves the school community. This process defines or clarifies the expected experience desired by the school and uses that as a framework for creating a pilot experience. Professional development must be included and is used to help teachers design layouts for their new spaces, understand classroom management, and how to innovate using their new spaces. Pilot programs should also employ a robust evaluation program that assesses each component of the new spaces, shifts in the educational experience, and teachers' and students' likes and dislikes. Successful programs are also tied to the direct participation of school leadership and how often they visit classrooms and engage teachers in discussions about the pilot's progress. Finally, successful programs continually present their progress to their community and involve them throughout the process.

What’s Next After the Pilot Program?

The findings from the pilot program can be used to develop a learning spaces guide or playbook for the school or district. This can include guidelines and layouts that support the effective use of new classroom spaces, which can also be used in onboarding new teachers and professional development efforts. Also, the findings are used to develop strategic guidelines for purchases at scale so that spatial change is data and research-informed. 

Learning space pilot programs provide a strategic approach to learning space change. Re-creating classrooms to provide a contemporary learning experience is a definite challenge, and it involves new environments, supporting teacher growth and development, and helping the school community understand the need for updated spaces. Such pilots move beyond simple furniture purchases to a program that clearly establishes the right type of learning environment that will support teachers and students now and into the future.

References:

Heaven, W. D. (2023, April 7). CHATGPT is going to change education, not destroy it. MIT Technology Review. 

Miller, M. (2023, June 8). CHATGPT, Chatbots and Artificial Intelligence in Education. Ditch That Textbook. https://ditchthattextbook.com/ai/#t-1671292150912 

OpenAI. (2023). ChatGPT: Conversational AI Language Model. Retrieved from https://chat.openai.com/

Roose, K. (2023, January 12). Don’t ban ChatGPT in schools. teach with it. The New York Times. 

David Jakes

David Jakes’ career as an educational designer has been influenced by the variety of roles and positions that he has held over 35 years. As a classroom science teacher, David developed a deep understanding of teaching and learning that has served as a foundation for his entire professional life. As a school administrator, David provided leadership on a wide variety of school opportunities and issues, including the application of educational technology to the school experience. During his time as an educator, David developed an interest in design and learning spaces and joined The Third Teacher+ Design Studio of CannonDesign, an international design firm. David served as a digital learning strategist and had an opportunity to work across the United States on a variety of K-12 and higher education design projects, all in the service of designing contemporary spaces for teaching and learning. Today, David serves as the founder and lead designer for David Jakes Designs LLC, a design studio dedicated to reshaping education through the creation of inspiring learning environments.