Re: What's new in classroom configurations

From: Jay Lemke (
Date: Sun Feb 27 2005 - 11:23:35 PST

yes, most of this is a pretty old idea, and I had always thought that in
the UK "infant schools" (early primary grades?) used the open classroom
model, a lot like this, minus the circular track ...

does the teacher's desk actually ride on a track around the room? that
seems a little too bizarre to me, and I certainly don't like the spy
mirrors that are mentioned

in fact it all sounds a great deal like Foucault's account of Bentham's
prison panopticon, in reverse (surveillance from the periphery rather than
from the center), and as much concerned with control and surveillance as
with anything to do with the positive side of learning (i.e. learning what
you want to learn, vs. what the state wants you to learn)

the Qpods (does this mean something in the UK? not here) for the students
sound fine, and ergonomic chairs on wheels are great. I am not quite so
sure about 360 degree panorama boardspace, but would have to try it out ...
and the podium in the center won't work too well if it prevents eye contact
with more than half the class (except by way of mirrors).

I'm all for experimentation in learning environment design, even this one,
but there is also the matter of evaluating the results of the experiment
critically, and comparing alternative designs.

Much of the design "problem" presumably originates in the contradictions
of the activity-complex: control, information delivery, dialogue, inquiry
... and the surrounding assumptions about teacher-student ratio,
age-homogeneity of students, isolation of learning environments from other
social settings, curricular authority, student incompetence, etc.

No amount of good design is going to save a fundamentally dysfunctional


At 11:15 AM 2/27/2005, you wrote:
>As a former Montessori teacher, it seems pretty familiar. I remember one
>Montessori kid looking at a more traditional classroom and asking, but
>if they have to sit there all the time how do they get any work done?

Jay Lemke
University of Michigan
School of Education
610 East University
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Tel. 734-763-9276

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