Spotlight on Student Centered Design

Chris Gibbs is a principal at DLR Group Architects and has seen many changes and trends come and go in educational facility design.  Designing for student engagement and experience are part of what informs his process, along with the goal of holistically transforming the outcomes for all learners.  

Q. Designing for student engagement has become a hot topic in past years. What are some of the developments on the horizon when it comes to designing schools promote student attention and alertness?

A. Educational facilities play a critical part in the engagement of learners at all levels. As learning place design continues to better align with curriculum and pedagogy, designers must consider spatial variety to maintain student attention and alertness. Spaces may range from individual nooks for quiet contemplation to larger spaces that support active group learning. Each option is equally important to meet the varying needs of young learners.

Q. Is there more of a trend toward designing buildings for career- and college-readiness? How can building and classroom design help students to be better prepared for life after the K-12 world?

A. Preparing students for the ever-changing world that they are launching into after their K-12 experience is more challenging than ever. The pathways students chose after high school are wide-ranging and many of the careers they will pursue have not been invented. Providing learners with a variety of learning places and experiences, when paired with effective best-teaching practices, will develop a solid foundation for their future endeavors. School facilities should provide for seamless day-to-day flexibility in their ability to be modified to support the diverse learning activities that may need to occur.

Q. What are some elements of school design that are overlooked, but really benefit students when thought out and planned carefully?

A. All human beings are social creatures and one critical part of K-12 education is the development of social skills. School design sometimes overlooks the importance of designing spaces for young people to be social. K-12 students of all ages need to continually refine their ability to make friends and be friends in addition to an ability to communicate on a variety of levels.