The Function of Education: The 21st Century School

The studio will explore the function of education in the context of an academy in East Palo Alto, located in the nexus of the high tech industry in California.

Schools- ever since early models in homes in ancient China to the 1950s open-plan model- were tutor-focused and based on an approach to education that favored the transmission and reception of standard knowledge. In the 21st century, changes in technology – wireless networks, mobile devices, the internet and digital learning resources – have led to a shift from teacher-centered to a student-centered paradigm, and the rise of e-learning means learning can extend beyond the walls of the classroom. However, learning is not atomized to a learner; it is a collaborative process involving students, their peers, faculty, community members and ready access to the world via the internet. This raises the question: how does the space support learning experience?

According to the Boston Center for Curriculum Redesign, knowledge, skills, character and metacognition define the four dimensions of 21st century education. Knowledge and skill are curriculum concerns. Metacognition- how we reflect and learn- is influenced by each individual’s subjectivity. Character, on the other hand, is informed by experience, or “knowing how” we engage with the world. The specific spatial environment the school building provides informs this aspect of learning. Given that learning is no longer confined to the classroom, but occurs throughout the school, this function of the building forms an ever greater part in students’’ education, echoing John Dewey who famously said, \”Learning is thinking about experience.\”

The studio will approach the school building as an assemblage. Acting individually or collectively, its constituent elements will address the programmatic brief and other practical concerns. They will also act as sources of aesthetic experience through the production of affects that are desirable in a 21st century learning environment, such as socialisation, collaboration, exploration, spontaneity, and interaction, risk taking, discovery, healthiness, and concentration.

Paul Reville, Francis Keppel Professor of Practice of Educational Policy and Administration and Director of Education Redesign Lab at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, will be collaborating with the studio during the semester.