Designing & Managing the 21st Century Classroom

Instructor: Derek Hughes

Derek has a Masters of Science degree in Teaching, Learning & Curriculum.

Modern research and the advent of educational technology has changed how teachers need to design and manage their classrooms. This lesson will help you come up with a plan for your own 21st century classroom.

The 21st Century Classroom

Gone are the days when education means students sitting in rows listening to the teacher talk all day. No longer is it acceptable for a teacher to be the center of the classroom, with students passively learning. The 21st century classroom is one in which students are the leaders and center of learning with the teacher acting as facilitator.

Because of this shift in education, designing and managing a modern classroom must change also. How you situate furniture and materials and manage student behavior must reflect new theories in education. This lesson will provide you with several strategies to use in your own classroom.

Classroom Design

Imagine trying to place modern students in rows and expecting them to listen and work all day. It probably looks like chaos, and it would be in practice, also. Education research shows that students learn better through group collaboration and activities that are tailored to their learning styles. Your classroom design and environment should reflect those values.

For example, the simple task of organizing desks is incredibly important. If you want to encourage group collaboration and cooperation, your desk arrangement should reflect that. Placing desks in groups shows students that they are encouraged to work together to solve problems. This placement also allows for easy transitions from one group activity to another since desks are already organized that way.

Additionally, students benefit from moving (physically) from one activity to another. Therefore, your classroom design should allow for easy, safe movement from one area to another. If things are pressed too closely together, you'll get traffic jams of students, resulting in utter chaos (which we're always trying to avoid).

Students should also be encouraged to be as independent as possible in the classroom so that you can focus on small-group or one-on-one instruction. Therefore, designing classroom procedures for everything (literally every little thing students might need to do) is an important element of 21st century classroom design. You might need procedures for:

  • Sharpening pencils
  • Asking to use the bathroom
  • Turning in work
  • Asking for help
  • Transition to a different activity

Trust me, the more procedures you have in place, the more smoothly your classroom will run and the more instructional time you'll have.

Finally, you'll want to have centers around the room where students can go to find materials they might need. These could include a classroom library or reading corner, a math materials corner, an art supplies shelf, and a cool-down spot (for students who get easily overwhelmed and need to take a minute to chill out). Having these places around the room encourages students to be independent when trying to find materials they need to work.

Classroom Management

Modern classroom management should be focused on giving students control and ownership over their behavior. This means fewer 'rules' dictated by the teacher and more 'responsibilities' decided by the class as a whole. This style of classroom management allows you to be more proactive about behavior, instead of reacting to small interruptions and situations throughout the day.

The first step toward modern classroom management is to allow students to work together to write a list of classroom responsibilities. I know this sounds scary, but it's really not. You'd be surprised at the insightful things students come up with when put in this position of power. You can help students by framing responsibilities in three categories- taking care of ourselves, taking care of others, and taking care of our space. Some responsibilities you might hear include:

  • Treat others as you want to be treated
  • Raise your hand if you have something to share
  • Use listening ears while others are talking
  • Always put trash in the trash can
  • Make sure your space is clean before leaving the room

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