The Tony Little Centre for Innovation and Research in Learning (CIRL) at Eton College is now officially open. The vision of outgoing Head Master Tony Little, CIRL is designed to develop Eton’s expertise in teaching and learning.
The centre will act as a research hub, allowing experimentation with cutting-edge innovations in teaching and learning and a greater emphasis on evidence-based practice. The research findings will be used not only to sustain Eton’s own high standards but will be shared with other schools, universities and research bodies around the world.
The Tony Little Centre is located in an existing building at the college, redesigned by local architect firm Lewandowski. The Edwardian façade gives way to a truly 21st century interior. Spaceoasis, learning space designer and furniture manufacturer, worked alongside Lewandowski and with a senior master from the College, Simon Hearsey, to design and install the new learning spaces at CIRL.
Here, we take a closer look at the design features in three of the teaching and learning spaces.
With a one-way mirror along the length of one wall, the Observation Classroom allows teachers to experiment with new ways of teaching and learning and to watch others doing the same. Lessons can be filmed to enable critique and the sharing of new ideas.
The furniture is mobile and can be configured in a variety of ways, and a teacher’s lectern provide a highly flexible space that can be arranged to accommodate any lesson style. The mobile teacher’s lectern also encourages masters to move away from the ‘comfort zone’ of their desk.
The chairs in the Observation Classroom allow the user to tip the chair forward slightly, allowing movement, which improves posture and blood flow and in turn improves concentration.
Creative ICT Suite
The Creative ICT Suite comprises three spaces: a master’s office, a teaching space and a seminar room. The desk in the master’s office faces the wall, so when a student comes in the master has to turn 180°, offering the student their undivided attention. Similarly, this arrangement affords the master a quiet place to work when not engaged with a student.
The main teaching and learning space consists of three zones, all with agile furniture and writable surfaces to encourage creative thinking and collaboration. In the first zone, seven agile Petal tables with dry-wipe, writable surfaces can be clustered together for collaboration or hived off individually for independent work. A writable wall and height-adjustable circular table, enclosed by three screens, creates a more intensive thinking and brainstorming space. The second area in this space consists of multi-height, irregular-shaped upholstered stools and laptop tables so students can choose how and where to sit. This informal approach to ICT integrates technology in a more relaxed and flexible way than the rigid, fixed bank of screens of a traditional ICT suite.
The third area in the suite is the seminar room, which includes a bespoke-designed oval table. This table enables groups to come together in a non-hierarchical setting where students can interact tutorial-style, much as they would at university or in the workplace.
Video Conferencing Room
CIRL’s video conferencing room bears little resemblance to your average facility, with the audiovisual equipment integrated so that not a single cable is visible.
A shield-shaped table featuring the Eton College crest sits in the centre of the room with the flat edge of the table facing the screen. When the screen is not in use, seats can be placed on all three sides of the table.
“For this cutting-edge facility we wanted furniture that was exciting, yet also practical and flexible. The team here has found it a pleasure to work with Spaceoasis. The result is a centre in which every aspect of the furniture is exactly right for how we use it, and a major reason why the overall effect is so stunning,” said Jonnie Noakes, Head of Teaching & Learning.
Spaceoasis’ James Clarke designed the learning spaces at the Tony Little Centre. After attending the opening ceremony he commented: “Eton is probably thought of as a traditional school but this space demonstrates their intention not just keep up with how teaching and learning is changing, but to lead the way and to share their findings with the world. The teaching and learning possibilities of new technology are only very gradually finding their way into the classroom and I hope that, with this new centre, Eton will be able to inspire other schools and universities throughout the world. I think this space also shows that furniture has a crucial role to play in enabling creative ways of teaching and learning and integrating technology, it would be very difficult to achieve this in a traditional classroom environment.”