According to Auten’s founder, Lene Jensby Lange, traditional classrooms foster a “same-size-fits-all philosophy” that does not support the unique ways different students learn.
In an interview with C.M. Rubin, Lene Jensby Lange, the founder of Autens, a leading Danish consultancy dedicated to re-imagining creative learning spaces, discusses the Learning Space Design Lab, a model that shows how teachers and students can work collaboratively, playfully and productively.
According to Jensby Lange, “our world continues to change at a dramatic pace, and yet, the learning spaces our children spend so much time in have not.”
She thinks traditional classrooms foster a “same-size-fits-all philosophy that leaves too many students disengaged with their life as learners and not supporting their full potential.”
However, she says most teachers tend to ask for “pretty traditional classrooms.” But if 21st Century education is to be relevant, engaging, and collaborative in hands-on playgrounds of learning, is that enough?
“We aim to create inspired design briefs for future-oriented schools… developed and supported by the whole organization – and we aim to simultaneously kick-start the professional development required to work in those spaces.”
After participating in the Learning Space Design Labs, teachers no longer want to teach in a traditional classroom.
According to Jensby Lange, school buildings have been developed traditionally by building committees with only a handful of the teachers present, and architects making the most important decisions. She believes that building and interior designs are “physical representations of a learning culture.”
According to her, if they aren’t involved, teachers are “likely to either not be able to use the new spaces to their full potential or even reject the new design as dysfunctional altogether.”
“It is crucial to involve the entire teaching staff when we make decisions around something as significant as the buildings and interiors that help shape what we are able to do in those buildings,” Jensby Lange said.
With the Learning Space Design Lab, Jensby Lange wanted to create “inspired design briefs for future-oriented schools (or just class-room redesigns on smaller scale projects) developed and supported by the whole organization.”
“We invite entire teaching staff to engage in a very hands-on activity of showing future at their school through physical doll-house models. (…) They work teams, what happens is that begin negotiate new structures activities centered around student needs.”
This highly engaging, collaborative approach encourages discussions, reflections and negotiations.
When asked what her greatest accomplishments with Learning Space Design Lab is, Jensby Lange says she sees “a new generation of learning spaces emerge, suited to multiple ways of working and learning, and with a strong focus on personalization and well-being.”
These spaces allow teachers to be more creative, and to set up different approaches to learn; and they are spaces where each student can decide and express how they prefer to work.
“We have clear indications that students are better able to focus, that conflict levels are lower, and even that – in the words of one of the students – ‘the teachers are much more quiet now’, implying that the spaces have become an invisible teacher helping scaffold students learning and support constructive behavior.”
As for the Learning Space Design Lab’s future, Jensby Lange reveals the teams are currently looking into how to make it available globally, partnering with school designers in different countries.
She also evokes the possibility of making a digital version of the Learning Space Design Lab, even though she thinks that, “as human beings, we are wired to learn through collaboration and physical interaction with the world, and the digital opportunities available to schools today are not yet at a level where that is possible.”