This week I came across and interesting educational concept. Have you ever heard of open schools or open classrooms? I hadn’t heard of it until this week. My mom learned about it in college back in the late 1960s and early 1970s but never taught in this kind of setting.
What is the open classroom concept?
“The idea of the open classroom was that a large group of students of varying skill levels would be in a single, large classroom with several teachers overseeing them. It is ultimately derived from the one-room schoolhouse, but sometimes expanded to include more than two hundred students in a single multi-age and multi-grade classroom. Rather than having one teacher lecture to the entire group at once, students are typically divided into different groups for each subject according to their skill level for that subject. The students then work in small groups to achieve their assigned goal. Teachers serve as both facilitators and instructors.”
This concept first became popular in the British public schools after World War II where it was called informal education. American teachers visited British schools during the 1960s and saw this as an opportunity to focus on “learning by doing” and become a “school without walls”. It had mixed results and few schools in the US still have this structure. Some of the problems encountered included noise problems, poor ventilation, and the installation of temporary walls. This video from 1975, captures how this open classroom worked.
Are open classrooms still around today?
Some schools still have open classrooms, but many that remain are raising funds to be redesigned into more traditional classrooms. Can you imagine trying to get 30 six year old students to whisper all day long so they don’t disturb the other 90 students in the space? So here is the NPR article talking about the open classroom. Enjoy and have a great weekend!
It’s a perennial debate in American education: Do kids learn best when they’re sitting in rows at their desks? Or moving around, exploring on their own? Back in the 1960s and ’70s, that debate led to a brand new school design: Small classrooms were out. Wide-open spaces were in.