Darmody,Merike; Smyth,Emer; Doherty,Cliona, Designing Primary Schools for the Future, Dublin, ESRI, October, 2010
ESRI Research Series;16
International research has indicated the importance of school design for
pupil engagement, learning and achievement. Aspects of the school
environment, including school and classroom density, class size, quality of
lighting, ventilation and absence of noise, have been found to significantly
enhance pupil experiences and outcomes. However, many commentators
have argued that trends in school design have not kept pace with changes
in teaching and learning, with many classroom settings remaining teacherfocused
rather than child-centred and insufficiently flexible to
accommodate new technology.
There has been very little empirical research in the Irish context on the
implications of school design for teaching and learning in primary schools,
in spite of revisions to the guidelines for school design in 1978 and 2000,
culminating in the current guidelines which date from 2007. National
population projections indicate that the number of enrolments into primary
schools will continue to rise in coming years. This will require new school
buildings and it is, therefore, timely to consider the nature and quality of
these schools. This study, Designing Primary Schools for the Future, explores the
perceptions of students, teachers and key stakeholders of the interaction
between school design and teaching and learning in the Irish context,
specifically focusing on primary schools. In particular, the study draws on
interviews with key stakeholders along with detailed case-studies of six
primary schools. The research encompasses perceptions on existing
primary schools, covering the range from older buildings to those built
according to current design guidelines. This summary presents the main
findings of our research and indicates the implications for the future design
of primary schools.
The Primary Curriculum (1999) is seen as having contributed to a
greater diversity in teaching methodology and the use of more active
learning approaches within the classroom. In keeping with previous
research, however, our study indicates a persistence of teacher-focused
approaches and scope for greater usage of group work and play-based
learning in order to enhance pupil engagement. School design is seen by
education stakeholders as playing an important role in potentially
facilitating or constraining the effective delivery of the primary curriculum.
In the remainder of this summary, we discuss the role of school design in
terms of: school and classroom size; indoor space within the school; use of
new technologies; outdoor space; and the implications for future design.
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