21st Century Learning Environments

Supportive Environments for Flexible, Adaptable, Excellence in Learning

The B.C. Education Plan is an important response to the challenges of rapid change in the 21st Century. It posits that to move education in B.C. from good to great, education must be adaptable, provide cross-cultural understanding, and remain flexible to support how, where, and when learning takes place. It summarizes this broader goal with the following five key elements:

  • Personalized learning for every student
  • Quality teaching and learning
  • Flexibility and choice
  • High standards
  • Learning empowered by technology

By extension, supportive space for learning must be flexible and agile in its ability to support varied modes of learning; it must provide environments that support teachers’ and student’s needs, be they intellectual, physical, social, or emotional; they must provide the tools to easily access information, digest it, and re-work and personalize it; they must support both individual and collaborative effort. This kind of space for learning is not about grand gestures, but rather the fine fabric of supportive background space that allows the high standards necessary for “quality teaching and learning”. Space cannot create good learning, but it can greatly facilitate the learning process.

Norma Rose Point School is a great example of this flexible space for 21st Century learners and educators. Click here to watch a video created by Fielding Nair International about the school.

Some of the challenges and opportunities for learning in the 21st Century that can be supported by built infrastructure include the following:

  • Personalized Learning – varied spaces within and adjacent to classrooms to support individual, one-on-one, and group activities Inquiry-based / Project-based Learning – support for art, science, physical and musical expression, where possible integrated into learning spaces; access to the outdoors, technology, tools, the community at large
  • Student-directed – accessible spaces that support student-directed individual or small group learning that are easily supervised, access to printed and electronic resources as well as teaching staff
  • Collaborative – room configurations, room groupings, and proximities that foster collaboration between professional staff and between students; students learn more effectively from teachers working in highly collaborative environments
  • Interdisciplinary – research shows positive outcomes when students creatively integrate knowledge from different disciplines, like art and science, language and history, or social studies; agile spaces that allow project work in arts and sciences as well as text or written work
  • Safe and Secure – spaces that build student security and confidence, easily supervised indoor and outdoor spaces at the larger scale, comfortable and secure cave spaces at the smaller scale
  • Nature as School – access to teaching environments and opportunities outdoors: outdoor classrooms, restoration of natural habitat, visible storm water detention, building systems and sustainable power displays as teaching opportunities, play structures as teaching elements (e.g. a sun-dial where the student is the marker)
  • Life-long Learning – spaces for community connections such as cross-generational drop-ins, Strong-Start, reading programs, early childhood learning; opening the school to community use of gym facilities, in addition to art, music, and other amenities
  • Community as School – a school that both in operation and design addresses and welcomes the community, is physically and socially connected to the large community
  • Globally Networked – access to global events and cultures through technology, and through connections to a diverse local community

The foregoing are examples of themes which can enrich, facilitate, and support learning in the 21st Century. While never a replacement for great teaching and good curricula, learning environments must be adaptable, agile, and pleasant to be in, in order to maximise opportunities for learning. Students and staff must have an environment that feels safe, comfortable, and supportive; an environment that encourages collaboration within and explorations without.


206 - 1470 St. Paul St.
Kelowna, BC V1Y 2E6
(250) 762 2503


300 - 10190 152A St.
Surrey, BC V3R 1J7
(604) 581 8128