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Translating innovative pedagogical designs into school facilities designs

Elliot Washor, Johnson & Wales University


Several forces are converging to place school facilities design—particularly high school facilities design—at the center of national attention: (1) a resurgence of interest in high school reform, particularly focused on personalizing learning; (2) the growing number of alternatives to traditional high schools; (3) a crumbling physical infrastructure; and (4) a recognition that the prevailing physical characteristics of high schools serve as substantial impediments to fundamental reform. When “form follows function” prevails as a design principle and the function is shifting fundamentally to address such concepts as meeting student interests, school facilities will need to accommodate different learning styles and contexts. Each set of stakeholders, however, will see the concept differently and imagine a different physical space. What are the forces at work and the tensions impacting these innovative school designs? How can we document and make sense of the process of translating innovative pedagogical designs into facilities designs? This research examined the translation of innovative and complex school reform models based on nontraditional pedagogical models into school facilities designs. This research identified key factors facilitating and impeding the translation process. In addition, the research examined the dynamics of relationships between the numerous constituencies involved in the design process to understand how these relationships affect the translation process. A qualitative approach using in-depth case studies of a high school's facilities design process was employed. Interviews, analysis of the minutes of design and construction meetings, observation of the design process, and an analysis of the design drawings were used. The research found three major forces at work and several recommendations were made for addressing these issues. The results will improve educators' understanding of school facilities design processes and recommend approaches educators need to take in order to assure that their pedagogical designs get translated appropriately into physical designs. The research will also inform the development of hypotheses for investigating specific forces and variables more precisely and intensively. Such research will support improved future new school facilities planning and plans to enhance student learning.

Subject Area

School administration|Secondary education|Architecture

Recommended Citation

Washor, Elliot, "Translating innovative pedagogical designs into school facilities designs" (2003). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3106417.