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Creating optimal learning environments

Article-Creating optimal learning environments

Architectural design of school buildings assumes a pivotal role, setting the stage for comprehensive learning experiences according to MENA-based researcher and architect

Education is on the precipice of a transformative era. In this era, the architectural design of school buildings assumes a pivotal role, setting the stage for comprehensive learning experiences.


According to Dee Saran, Deputy Head of Learning and Teaching at Dubai College, “The environment in which learning takes place is equally as important as the learning activities conducted within classroom walls.”

Initially, it may seem that a student's engagement is solely dependent on the syllabus or teaching method. However, it is becoming increasingly obvious that students’ immediate environment plays an integral role in shaping their learning process.

Studies reveal that the impact of tactile factors like color schemes and textures, along with the effects of light and acoustics, is quite profound in promoting cognitive development.


Arguably, one of the most progressive shifts in educational architecture is the introduction of 'student pods.' Serving as dynamic hubs, these spaces significantly revolutionize the learning environment. They provide a conducive atmosphere for students to delve into collaboration, brainstorm solutions for complex problems, partake in team projects, and exchange rich perspectives.

Saran’s unique insights also underscore the necessity of intentional school designs. These are layouts that explicitly cater to distinct teaching and learning activities. Building an effective design philosophy involves formulating spaces that are agile, adaptable, and primed for interaction.

Subsequently, this enables a learning environment that is comfortable and suitable for students of varying age groups.  And it kindles shared learning experiences among students.


Jason Burnside, Managing Director of Godwin Austen Johnson, provides insight into the ever-evolving discipline of architecture and its integral role in improving learning experiences.

"Architecture is an evolving discipline and architects must keep abreast of new technologies and materials to stay competitive and to give their clients the best solutions,” he says.  

“While this might seem straightforward, the reality is the challenges this brings: expense of staying updated; the software and hardware required; skillset and the expense of upgrading systems.”

He further states that failure to employ digital tools, for example, artificial intelligence (AI), could potentially restrain schools as they strive to meet the demands of a techno-savvy generation of students.

Burnside notably emphasizes the necessity for future-oriented school designs. As teaching methodologies and related school functions persistently evolve, educational spaces need to embrace a similar evolution in their planning and design to accommodate such changes.

An efficient design must exhibit flexibility to adapt to sudden or significant shifts, as seen during the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools that had invested in spacious communal areas and broader corridors found it easier to implement social distancing measures, demonstrating the importance of foresight and adaptability in architectural design for enhanced learning experiences.


The new education building is envisioned as a center for diverse learning experiences that extend beyond the limits of traditional curriculum.

As Saran elaborates, “At the core of this building are our Harkness rooms, which underscore the importance of oracy and the science of learning as fundamental pedagogical approaches throughout the college.

“This commitment is further reflected in the design of our state-of-the-art DC Digital Studios, where students not only learn to become content creators rather than passive consumers but also refine their oracy skills as they expand their knowledge and master digital skills.”

Moreover, the design furnishes versatile environments like the library, which transitions seamlessly between a space for group work and personal focus. This, Saran notes, nurtures a culture of research and scholarship among students.


To sum up, innovative design stands as a beacon for the ever-evolving demands of education. It holds a crucial position in nurturing students' comprehensive growth while facilitating their pursuit of knowledge and self-expression.

The significance of design in education cannot be overstated, as it forms the bedrock for shaping the future of learning.

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