Gregory Monberg

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What role does architectural design play in improving educational outcomes? Can a building design improve student creativity?

Some would argue that great teachers can get great results teaching in a tent. Others might argue that poor environmental conditions of a building can harm health, growth, productivity and learning. Do school buildings make a difference?

  • Feb 29 2012: I am very interested in this topic, so much so that it is my topic for maters thesis at UW-Milwaukee. I have been researching and researching, racking my brain on how to create a educational environment that will foster interests and draw students in, as opposed to pulling them in. Its been very difficult because how do you design a building when the system its designed for is fatally flawed? If the teachers and the curriculum are horrible, it doesn't matter how amazing the building is that school will fail. So we need to design schools to be positive teaching tools, spaces that react and change with the lesson and the students learning styles.
  • Feb 28 2012: The answer is yes, and the trick is to incorporate technology and other teaching tools without allowing them to become a distraction. There is much to be said about an organized, uncluttered classroom that allows students to engage with one another and present new ideas in a safe, unthreatening environment. The teacher who teaches in the tent may be successful in spite of the environment, however if they have the talent and expertise to utilize their space and communication tools, they can be far more effective.

    Design that allows a classroom to transform from one teaching style to another so students may incorporate multiple dimensions and media requires more than providing tablet arm chairs and a chalkboard. I have seen professors open the shades allowing for natural light during collaborative periods and then closing the shades during lecture or independent study.

    Inspiring creativity requires some imagination and planning. Often there are "traditional classrooms" that prevent interaction and collaboration, and are designed for economy to fit as many students in the class as possible. The university that can recognize the need to enhance learning by providing for the students and not the professors will thrive.
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    Feb 2 2012: What a great question....I hope you are involved with designing schools.

    I have always felt that it is depressing teaching in a classroom with no windows. I have found that teachers and students are much more upbeat and happy when there is plenty of natural light coming in the classroom.

    However, the drawback is "distractions".

    Any way of getting classrooms to have lots of natural light without a view that distracts students?
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    Jan 30 2012: Hi Greg
    Of course the answer is yes, design matters in many ways. I have taught in high tech labs and on the beach. Depending on what is being taught, the environment can have a tremendous impact on what is learned, which is the main goal of what you are discussing.
    The architect must be flexible and know the purposes that are impacted by his designs. I have lived in cities with low brick and stone buildings and cities of glass towers. The design of the building is only as good as the success of the site's integration with everything around it and everything done within it.
    I have been surprised by my experience upon entering a beautiful glass tower only to find 12 by 12 foot square cubicles inside with hallways that were poorly lit and restrooms that had terrible designs, making cleanliness and an odor free environment impossible.
    The steel and glass skin of a modern building can be beautiful or boring or over the top ugly. But those qualities are external. I have enjoyed beautiful interiors with beyond functional interior design which were inside very plain white or beige structures.
    My conclusion is that architects have their strong points and week points. The best buildings are put together inside and out by teams who collaborate to design buildings that blend beautifully into their environment, and fulfill their functionality in clean, beautiful and convenient designs, which focus on human environments and needs.
    Personally, I would not have put the glass pyramid in front of the Louvre. On the other hand, there are many places where such a structure would perfectly placed.