5 Questions you must ask before designing a collaborative space

Creating collaborative spaces for education is great fun and something, when done correctly, that makes a fantastic zone for groups to think and create effectively. Here are five things to consider when creating a collaborative space.

1. How will the space be used? 

This is the most important question to start with. Sure, students and teachers will use the space for collaborative activities, but will it be utilised for additional uses? Think about who will be using the space, how they will use it on a regular basis and what they will want from the space. For example, if you have a group of students and teachers who will use the space to work collaboratively one day and then the next day it is used for individual study it is worth thinking about how you can structure the room to be used both ways. This could be done by providing lounges and chairs that can easily be pulled away from a group and used individually.

2. Do you need to accommodate varied group sizes? 

Will you only be using the space with a full class working as a single group, will you be working in multiple smaller groups, or will it be a combination of both? This is really important to ascertain as it will dictate how you structure the layout of your space. The more you can make the space suit the requirements of the group, the more effective the group can be at collaborating, whether that is a group of 30 or multiple groups of 3 or 4. If you need cater to multiple group sizes, using modular and easily movable furniture pieces can really help.

3. Do you need to allow for different communication styles? 

During a lesson, will the collaboration space need to accommodate different styles of communication from the teachers? Will there be a combination of teacher-led discussion followed by more individual/small group communication between the teacher and the students? If so, you should consider the overall layout of the space to ensure all methods of communication can be easily utilised. An example of this would be to ensure that all students can easily focus on the teacher when they are speaking to the whole class without having to move into an uncomfortable position.

4. Is mobile necessary? 

Do you need to make your furniture mobile? This really depends on the answers to the above questions. If you need a space that can be easily reconfigured at a moments notice to accommodate different group sizes, multiple uses of the space or different methods of communication, then the answer is probably yes. However, if you are using the space for a specific collaboration style, then you may not need to. This can help reduce some of the costs associated with creating new collaborative spaces.

5. What have you already got that can be used for your collaborative space? 

It is worth taking an inventory of what is already available to you for your new collaborative space. This could include whiteboards that can be put up on the walls, chairs, lounges and tables that are in storage that could be re-purposed. Check out this article we wrote earlier on how to give old furniture a new lease on life!

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