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How to start the school year with a focus on student success

The definition of student success is changing; an updated perspective, fresh strategies and new metrics are needed

Posted by Hannah Oakman | September 08, 2016 | School life

Steelcase Education believes that student success includes three elements: gaining knowledge, acquiring practical skills and personal development. 

One way to improve these elements is to enhance the space in which students work. Regardless of the grade level, subject matter or class size, today’s best classrooms are designed for participative, active, and engaging learning experiences that help students function at their best – physically, cognitively and emotionally.

Creativity: the basis of innovation 

In a world of rapid change and increasing complexity, there is constant pressure to innovate. This is why creativity is now perceived as a skill necessary for student success, and something that 21st-century employers are looking for in their employees. Creative thinking is in demand for students and workers alike. But creativity isn’t just the ability to generate ideas. It’s about collaboration and activity that leads to solutions for real problems. Graduates need a depth of expertise in more than just one or two areas. They also need the ability to apply knowledge from areas other than their own, collaborate across disciplines and approach problems in new ways. Engaging spaces allow students to develop these important skills. 

Yet most classrooms today are still arranged in a traditional style with row-by-row seating and stationary furniture which leaves little room for creative growth.

Designing for creativity in education 

Like the creative process itself, teaching creativity is non-linear, requires some basic tools and often gets messy. It can also be a whole lot of fun for both teachers and students. At Steelcase Education, our researchers encapsulate it in the three-part process, Think.Make.Share, with learning spaces suited for supporting each activity. 

  • Think: creativity begins with acquiring knowledge. Students begin their creative process by studying exemplars, acquiring insights and ideas from them, thinking about the information and subtly modifying it.  
  • Make: makerspaces offer spaces that encourage students to try out ideas, gain practical experience or simply make a mess to spark new ideas.
  • Share: Sharing information, seeking opinions, collecting and providing feedback are integral elements of the creative process. 

When designing an environment for creativity, start with these overall considerations:

  • Define the goals for the space – environments like makerspaces are trending but creativity is more than building models and prototypes. Thinking about and sharing creative ideas is equally important. 
  • Make it inspiring – prime the brain for creativity through ambient stimuli: colour, light, views of nature, etc.
  • Design for the process – allow for flexibility in the space and adjacencies between different zones which support each part of the process.

Creativity and engagement are part of positive student experiences but ultimately student success comes when the wellbeing of a student – their cognitive, physical and emotional needs – are considered. This holistic approach recognises that ‘success’ lies beyond just academics. 

Recognising the interdependency of pedagogy, technology and the spatial environment for successful active learning, in 2013 CATS Cambridge began planning for a brand-new, state-of-the-art facility. Their overarching intent was to create an inspiring and innovative learning environment that would spur each student’s success.

About Steelcase Education

As lifelong learners, Steelcase Education aims to make a difference in education. For students, educators and designers, we work to create the most effective, rewarding and inspiring learning spaces. As a dedicated group within Steelcase exclusively focused on education, we bring evidence-based design, technology and innovative solutions to education environments, wherever learning happens. Steelcase are exhibiting at the Higher Education Show on 11th October.  Find them on Stand 224 if you have any questions.

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