How flexible learning environments encourage focus

How flexible learning environments encourage focus

Flexible learning is a method of learning where students are given freedom in how, what, when and where they learn. In flexible learning environments, how physical space is used, how students are grouped during learning and how time is used throughout teaching are addressed.

These types of environments are becoming more popular in classrooms today and combine different structures, instructional strategies, and curricular approaches that allow a student to have access to what they need when they need it, to know what their next steps are in their learning, and to pursue areas of strength and interest. 


What is a flexible learning environment?

When people think of a flexible learning environment, they often think only of the physical space. While it is true that the space is flexible in nature, there is much more to a flexible learning environment than just the physical floor plan or furniture choices. Modern flexible learning environments also address other elements of the learning environment such as how students are grouped during learning and how time might be used more flexibly during the day.

Flexible environments create spaces for groups of different sizes. There are small breakout rooms so groups of students can work collaboratively. Some examples of what might happen in the smaller breakout spaces include activities like book partnerships and literature circles, maths explorations, independent work, or collaborative work on a group presentation. 

A teacher might also pull a group of students into a smaller breakout space to re-teach a concept or provide a lesson that extends the current concept for students who have already grasped it. 

Conversely, there is also the ability to open the space to bring all students together for large group activities. Some examples of when the space would be opened up include visitors making whole group presentations to the students, or sharing learning with others.

How your environment affects learning

In a flexible learning environment, educators are able to adjust their language to suit the audience, and students can make overt connections between subject area content and skills. This enables students to build their ability to see the world as inter-connected, which we know it is. This in a way prepares students for the real world as once they leave school, life doesn’t appear as discrete subjects so they’ll be more prepared to digest information as it comes.

Additionally, using flexible grouping and time allows students to be pushed further in their areas of strength and to get additional time and support in areas of challenge.

The environment you study or work in impacts the ability to retain information based on several factors including noise, lighting, and temperature. Understanding how these stimuli affect your productivity is important and a more flexible working environment can allow you to adjust your workspace to suit what works best for you. 

Natural lighting, the right temperature, limiting distractions, experimenting with background noise and acoustics, and air quality are just some of the factors that can contribute to productivity and focus, and having distinct spaces within a learning or working environment where students can choose to work from can be beneficial.

Tips to make your learning environment more flexible

  • Make the most of natural environments and fresh air to structure spaces accordingly. Younger children especially love getting outside into nature and this can be a learning experience in itself, and the breaks can encourage concentration when it starts to wander
  • Set up mini work areas within a larger space where groups can break off to work on projects. Use tables with castors that can allow you to create a space quickly, i.e. group tables together for collaboration and separate them out for quiet focused tasks. Our gravitate flip table is perfect for this kind of flexibility in room set-up
  • Make the space inviting with soft seating and creature comforts. A space that is cosy and comfortable can be much more conducive to focused work for some people as it reminds us of being at home and gives a sense of calm
  • Consider active seating that encourages movement and keeps students from being sedentary for long periods
  • Allow more introverted types to get away from the hustle and bustle of a busy learning area or office by investing in single or double pods, which create calm and solitude

Are you considering making your learning or workspace more flexible? If you’d like to talk to our team about the fit out and design process or any of the above products, contact us now.

Next article The Value of Creativity in the Modern Classroom