Spaces where learners flourish are spaces of discovery and possibility, where imagination and creativity are nurtured, where learners engage deeply and meaningfully with each other and the world, where learners have room to discover and pursue their passions under the loving guidance of adults who share the learning space.
I believe most good teachers want to create such spaces for their learners. However, far too often school policies, structures, and unexamined assumptions push teachers to “operate as if everything a child needs to know is on one piece of paper” and that teachers need to “tear little scraps off that piece of paper and hand them across a desk to the child, who eventually has the sum total of the one piece of paper” (OWP/P Architects). This is, of course, a caricature. However, it may come closer to describing learning spaces in which more learners find themselves than we would like to admit. Do learners flourish under such an approach?
A few years ago a group of us came together to explore innovative educational practices that might have the power to transform the way we “do schooling.” (“Spaces Where Learners Flourish” is an ongoing collaborative project by Elaine Brouwer, Bill de Jager, Joanne den Boer, Jeff Kiers, and Tim Krell.) We discovered amazing stories from across the globe. However, when it came time to share what we were learning, we grappled with the baggage and limitation of the words we commonly use in educational circles.