Redesigning My Classroom to Personalize Learning

Although I am not currently teaching, I designed my space based on a classroom I used a few years ago.  As a Special Education teacher, I worked with multiple small groups of students throughout the day who walked into my classroom with a plethora of unique cognitive, developmental, emotional, behavioral, and sensory needs. My classroom did not support all of my students’ needs and it would have been my dream to design a classroom that did. Mirroring the main goal of my classroom redesign, Childress and Benson stated, “Many schools are being redesigned to help every student get what they need to reach their own aspirations by creating more personalized learning environments” (p. 34).

My former classroom had only tables arranged in rows that could occasionally be moved into groups of two if there were multiple people available to help lift and shift the heavy tables. This furniture and classroom setup did not support flexibility. The only choice students had in this classroom were whether to sit alone or with another student and I would have to weave between the rows of tables and chairs to address students’ needs throughout a class period. It also made it very challenging to provide small group instruction. One of my students had significant sensory integration needs and found that lying on the floor to be the best way for him to learn. Although there wasn’t much room for this, I allowed him to work on the floor because that is what he needed to be successful.

When beginning my “redesign” of this classroom, I aligned with David Kelley’s “human-centered” approach to design and I wanted to focus on building multiple learning spaces to support student choice and diverse learning needs. By creating multiple learning spaces within the room, I would be able to enable learner agency. These different spaces would personalize the learning experience and, like outlined by Culatta, would allow students to make decisions about how they wanted to learn.  Similar to my student who worked best on the floor, not all of my students learned best sitting at a table all day, so I found a few soft seating options and a carpeted area where they could sit/lay on the floor.

With a classroom that was so immobile in the past, I wanted to find furniture that would enable mobility. A study by Harvey and Kenyon (2013) found that furniture that is equipped for, “quick, easy transitions between various modes of teaching, learning, and task, and mobility, too, might ensure a sense of flexibility within the classroom space” (p. 9).  I wanted my students to be able to feel this flexibility, so the majority of the furniture I chose has wheels for easy movement by myself, students or paraprofessionals. This would also provide me, as the teacher, choice and control when determining the best space for each lesson that I want to teach.  In my old classroom I did have a mobile interactive white board, so I kept that in my new design.

This new classroom design would require a lot of resources, which I know would be very challenging to come by. I would likely need to uncover grant funding to pay for the new furniture. Since I wanted to update the walls and make them bright, I thought it would be fun to include my students in choosing the wall color and also painting the room as a collaborative project. As key stakeholders in this experience, I would want to involve my students as much as possible and ask them what they would want out of a classroom environment. If I included them in the process, they would be much more engaged in learning in the future and hopefully more successful.  Like I previously mentioned, I would be able to reuse the mobile interactive whiteboard and also a whiteboard that was already mounted on my wall as a means to save a little bit of money. With the financial implications of this project, I would likely not be able to do it all at once, but if it were financially feasible, I would love to do it that way.

Here’s my redesigned classroom:

screen-shot-2016-11-20-at-5-28-31-pm

References:

Childress, S., & Benson, S. (2014). Personalized learning for every student every day.The Phi Delta Kappan, 95(8), 33-38. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/24374606

Culatta, R. (2013, January). Reimagining Learning: Richard Culatta at TEDxBeaconStreet. Retrieved from: http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/Reimagining-Learning-Richard-Cu

Harvey, E. & Kenyon, M. 2013). Classroom Seating Considerations for 21st Century Students and Faculty. Journal of Learning Spaces, volume 2. Retrieved from: http://libjournal.uncg.edu/jls/article/view/578

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