Education Happens Everywhere: Schools as Dynamic Spaces

Richard Pelton, English Language Acquisition Teacher at H-FARM International School Treviso

Parents, teachers, and school leaders often consider ways to improve education at a particular campus and to remain innovative throughout the academic year. We strategize and prioritize, yet the specific location of learning has changed greatly over the years. Students seldom remain at their desks for entire lessons, nor do they study by rote and other static forms of schooling. Classrooms represent places of discovery, as more engaged forms of education inspire students and extend across a learning community. But by assuming that classrooms are the only spaces for learning, do we not risk having our students literally thinking inside a box?

Although the gist of a well-structured lesson might happen in the classroom, unscripted moments of learning arise and radiate across a school campus. Schools which promote collaboration and student-led inquiry become sites for engaged instruction and, thus, develop into dynamic learning communities (Fullan, 2016; Ross-Gordon et al., 2015). As a teacher, one refines the best methods for instruction and prepares for class interactions; yet one of the hallmarks for an effective lesson remains the interest and engagement of the students (Zhang & Zeller, 2016).

In fact, it turns out that learning happens everywhere. Students discuss topics together while exiting a class and walking down a hallway. Parents assist their children with assignments in transit or over a videocall. A mentor teacher advising the novice instructor about pedagogical practices represents one of those essential moments of the profession. These forms of collaboration happen outside the traditional classroom. When we examine aspects of engaged learning, we redefine the spaces that we refer to as schools and places of learning.

For instance, in a lesson on developing a persuasive essay, I noticed that exchange among the students over the most effective line of reasoning continued even after the lesson had finished; as I left the classroom, the students remained in discussion about the best option for a particular scenario: The kernel of knowledge representing the aim of the learning activity was an active source of discourse, even as the teacher receded from the scene. Rarely does one consider the origin of a teachable moment or even a particular location of knowledge formation, yet the school remains the place where we, as partners in the process of education, set the stage for discovery and engaged discourse.

Few individuals learn in the exact same way or in the same exact space. Yet, we as educators often begin a lesson from a certain point, as those teachable moments evolve spontaneously in open spaces. Through intersections of ingenuity, creative design, and best pedagogical practices, educators can not only instruct a particular subject of inquiry, but also nurture a dynamic learning space including yet extending beyond the confines of the classroom.

Richard is an English Language/Literature teacher at H-FARM International School Treviso. He has worked and researched in the field of education in the US, Europe and the Americas. He holds a MA in Comparative Literature from King’s College London, a MA in Latin American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin, and a PhD in Education — School Improvement from Texas State University. Richard’s interests outside of teaching include community development, intercultural education and art, poetry and drama in public spaces.

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H-FARM International School aims to enhance our students’ talent and uniqueness, stimulate and develop their natural abilities and prepare them to to purposefully undertake their future challenges.

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Europe’s largest innovation and education campus. http://h-farm.com

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