Photo courtesy of: Greg Land

K-12: It’s About Being “Rigorous” AND “Relevant”

January 16, 2016  |  Ty Taylor, ALEP

Two of B&D’s K-12 experts, Beth Penfield and Tyler “Ty” Specht, attended the Council for Educational Facility Planning International’s LearningSCAPES 2015 Conference in San Diego. Here are their top five takeaways from the conference and current key discussions happening in the K-12 world:

1. First and foremost – new name, new branding
The organization formally known as CEFPI is now the Association for Learning Environments (A4LE) and its associated professional certification is now referred to as Accredited Learning Environment Planner (ALEP).

Thus, you will now see “ALEP” at the end of Beth & Ty’s names instead of “CEFP”:


2. It’s about being rigorous AND relevant
Keynote speaker Bill Daggett, ED, of the International Center for Leadership in Education, discussed his organization’s rigor/relevance framework. This framework includes two continuums – thinking and action. Both continuums start with the acquisition of knowledge and then end with assimilation and application of knowledge. This framework was developed to examine curriculum, instruction, and assessment.

During his keynote session, the audience was asked to think about how learning environments and school facilities can help support this framework, namely the application of knowledge in real-world, problem solving situations. These concepts are in alignment with the overall 21st century learning and school of the future dialogue across the industry.

Consider how the framework could be applied or incorporated into your organization, particularly if you are partial to the thinking or action continuum, and how to best address the full framework.

3. It’s career ready AND college prepared
Another core piece of the keynote session was that the planning of school facilities and learning environments need to keep both in consideration. It is no surprise that this concept directly relates to the 21st century learning model and recognition of what content and skills are taught to students. Daggett emphasized the importance of both the model, and the content and skills. The combination can be lost in the shuffle and should not be excluded from the discussion. A lot can happen in the next 10 to 15 years and anticipating the post-secondary opportunities for today’s students needs to take both into account.

In continuation of the 21st century learning model, evaluate the contingencies considering past research and data combined with any anticipated changes or adjustments based off of the nuances of your environment.

4. Research
Recently completed research studies help us understand the impact of learning environments on student achievement, such as class size and environmental design considerations like lighting. But still much more needs to be done.

The primary purpose of research is to find answers to questions. Therefore, when reviewing the various studies, it is important to understand the exact nature of the question posed – what is the study sample set, the variables and the correlational and causal relationships, peer review, etc.

What does this come down to? While the research is not yet definitive, it is beginning to support the theory that learning environments matter and elements can help enhance them.
When evaluating the future of your institution, establish your own strategic goals and values, and align your facility plans to them.

5. Students can do amazing things
A4LE hosts the SchoolsNEXT competition – an annual competition open to middle schoolers where teams of students are challenged to design a learning environment. The process includes a multi-disciplinary approach and concludes with presentations to a jury. The LearningSCAPES 2015 Conference attendees sat in awe as the four finalists gave their presentations. In total, more than 3,000 students from nearly 100 school districts from all over the world participated in the program this year. This more than substantiates the value in incorporating student voices during planning activities.

Consider opportunities to incorporate your school community in upcoming planning activities, and methods for continual feedback or involvement.

ALEP promises to post the videos on this site.

"The leadership and information from B&D, and the clarity with which they provide it, brings added credibility to the process and ensures that a range of university stakeholders, including senior leadership and our board, are fully informed for – and confident in – their required decision making.”

B.J. Crain, Former Interim Vice President for Finance and Administration
Texas Woman’s University

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