by Doug Loveland
As an educational project manager, planner, and design specialist for over 12 of my 19 years in architecture, I sometimes struggle understanding ‘learning’. Even though I plan, design, and oversee hundreds of thousands of square feet of educational spaces every year, I still struggle to listen for things that support or promote ‘learning’. As the father of four public school students and husband of a public school administrator I hear a lot about schools, but less often about ‘learning’. As the brother of two more educators and the son of a 20+ year member of a public board of education, I remember constantly hearing about schools, but rarely hearing about learning.
So, a few months ago I challenged myself to become a learner once more. As part of the current cohort of the Association for Learning Environments (A4LE) accreditation program, I am absorbing more every night from the perspective of the learner, not just the administrator, designer, planner, or teacher. I am learning about educational leadership styles and how they affect the success or failure of a district’s administration. I am learning about differences in individual student learning styles and discussing with a national peer group how that impacts the spaces to support their learning. And I am reminded each evening when I log on that learning is hard, and that we should be taking every advantage we can to better support the learners of every age, in every building, in every district.
Learning is defined as “the acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, study, or by being taught”. Teaching and learning is what educational spaces are designed and planned to support. The conversation HAS to be about learning, and how the spaces we design support that learning. The conversation HAS to be about supporting that acquisition of skills across a student body. The conversation HAS to be about supporting the teaching going on now and in the future, so that our work supports teaching and learning instead of hindering.
The staff at ACI Boland Architects is constantly learning. We are learning that leadership is hard, especially when we challenge each other by looking for ways to continually grow and improve. We are learning that the spaces demanded by current educational methods and techniques are no longer the classrooms we learned in as children (hint – they are often not classrooms at all!). And we are learning that with each design, each concept, each client meeting, and each interaction that there is more out there to be learned. We are continually learning on our Journey – and know without compromise, the journey must reflect and enhance today and tomorrows learning environments by providing spaces that support the intellectual, physical, and emotional development of all students.
Learning is not easy, but it’s such a good feeling to learn something new. So, here’s to learning every day. Here’s to accepting the challenge and persevering! Here’s to knowing each student’s educational journey has a better chance to be successful because of how well we did our job. That’s what matters most.
It’s about the Journey!
Doug Loveland is a principal at ACI Boland Architects and leads the Educational division of the firm. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org