Challenge: 4000 Years of Behavioral Conditioning Define the Designs of Face-to-Face Classrooms – Next Generation Learning Environments

Challenge: 4000 Years of Behavioral Conditioning Define the Designs of Face-to-Face Classrooms – Next Generation Learning Environments

Lennie Scott-Webber (INSYNC: Education Research + Design, USA)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1689-7.ch002
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Too many stakeholders are ignoring too much scientific research and the net resulting outcome is too many students are left behind academically. Significant and strategic changes must occur quickly to correct this fundamental outcome. This chapter explores issues relative to the current state of classroom design and why they haven't changed systemically in over 4000 years. Definitions of active learning and behavioral research basics, the nature of the physical learning place, Evidence-Based Designs (EBD) solutions and examples of solution features and capabilities impacting pedagogy (i.e., teaching and learning strategies), technology and spaces are shared. Metrics of ‘proof' of engagement impact are cited, and this author argues that space provides behavioral cues. To simplify the complexity of moving from a teacher-centric paradigm and design solutions to a learner-centric one, two important items for consideration are presented: 1) a formula guiding deep learning parameters for all stakeholders and 2) a decision-makers' checklist.
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An archeological dig of a 2000 BCE Sumerian site was labeled ‘The Classroom’ by the archeologist Cole (2005, p. 200 in Teitelebaum 2015, p. 28). Why was this site referenced with this name? The layout, or design, is row-and-column marble slabs as seats with a ‘teacher’ desk at one end (see Figure 1) mimicking the row-and-column design layouts we see today in a ‘traditional classroom’ (see Figure 2). Designs for face-to-face learning environments continue to repeat this row-and-column layout (Scott-Webber, 2004) and for centuries have been coupled with a teacher-centered practice of dyadic delivery. Research across time and from multiple disciplines has shown us how to generate engagement in the learning process and why it is important for cognitive development. However, systemic change challenges persist.

Figure 1.

Adaptive sketch of Sumerian dig’s ‘The Classroom’

Source: Cole, 2005, p. 200; In Teitelebaum, M. (PhD diss., University of Toronto, 2015, p. 38).
Figure 2.

‘Traditional’ row-and-column classroom design

© [Steelcase Education]. Reproduced by permission of Steelcase Education.

Physical space impacts behavior and provides behavioral cues; realize that behavioral conditioning sets in after only a few times of experiencing a repeated task. As an example, think about your smart phone. When it buzzes or lets off some kind of sound, (i.e. stimulus) what do you do? You turn immediately and look at it (i.e., response). That response to the noise as a cue is continued evidence of the stimulus response syndrome, or Pavlovian Conditioning as proposed by Pavlov in 1902 (McLeod, 2007). “’Classical conditioning’ (later developed by John Watson, 2008) involves learning to associate an unconditioned stimulus that already brings about a particular response (i.e. a reflex) with a new (conditioned) stimulus, so that the new stimulus brings about the same response” (McLeod, 2007, n.p.). When individuals open a door to a current classroom with a row-and-column ‘traditional classroom’ layout the students and faculty members know what behaviors are expected; for students it is ‘sit and get’ and for faculty it is ‘stand and deliver.’ If we expect physical space, as one of the important learning places to be a catalyst for change, then we must design next generation learning places to support and encourage:

  • 1.

    Different expectations and behaviors from both students and faculty,

  • 2.

    Inclusion of analogue (i.e., non-digital) and digital tools connecting to and for the creation and delivering of content, and

  • 3.

    Solution applications respecting evidence-based designs, learning research and brain science’s understanding of how the brain learns at differing cohort ages.

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