Alternatives to the Classroom as the Dominant Learning Space in Schools

What sort of spaces come to mind when you think of a typical school?  I think of things like the classroom (often labeled by grade level, content area, or the teacher’s name), the gymnasium, the cafeteria, teacher’s lounge, principal’s office, auditorium, nurse’s office, library or media center, computer lab, science lab, bathrooms, hallways…

And yet, the possibilities are endless when it comes to imagining learning spaces.  Consider a school that has some of the following spaces as the centers for learning throughout the day.  Of course, many schools contain several of the spaces below, but imagine the possibility of such spaces being the central and dominant learning spaces.  In such a school, there really is no need for the traditional classroom.

  • Hall of History
  • Exhibition Area
  • “Town” Hall
  • Hackerspace or Makerspace
  • Center for Research & Innovation (for student’s to do research and development)
  • Arcade or Center for Games and Learning (not only do they play games, but they create them)
  • Design Center
  • Art Studio
  • Production Studio
  • Center for Social Entrepreneurship
  • Think Spaces
  • Informal Cooperation and Collaboration Spaces
  • Community Outreach Center (for the student’s to explore and plan the outreach)
  • Global Communications Headquarters
  • Center for Health and Well-being
  • Dance Studio
  • Coffee Shop / Cafe
  • Kitchen (where learner’s can cook and prepare)
  • Writing Laboratory
  • Theater
  • Chapel
  • Greenhouse
  • Community Garden
  • Community Park (yes, managed by the learners)
  • The Forest (yes, a real one)
  • The Community (yes, getting out of the building often and for extended periods of time)

What sort spaces can you imagine or have you seen that can serve as powerful hubs for learning in schools?  Consider adding ideas in the comment section.

This is not a new idea.  There are plenty of schools without classrooms.  If you want to explore the topic further, here are a couple of resources to get you started.

New Schools Without Classrooms in Sweden








 Larry Cuban on the Open Classroom / Schools (a good and balanced perspective)

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Schools Without Walls Project



Posted in education, innovation

About Bernard Bull

Dr. Bernard Bull is an author, professor of education, Vice Provost of Curriculum and Academic Innovation, podcast host, and blogger. Some of his books include Missional Moonshots: Insights and Inspiration for Educational Innovation, What Really Matters: Ten Critical Issues in Contemporary Education, The Pedagogy of Faith (editor), Adventures in Self-Directed Learning, and Digitized: Spiritual Implications of Technology. He is passionate about futures in education; educational innovation; and social entrepreneurship.