Guest post by John Carder

By now, most educators have heard the term “makerspace.” The idea of a makerspace originated outside of the school setting as a place for community members to design and create manufactured work that wouldn’t be possible to create without the space. School makerspaces give students a place to work individually and collaboratively through hands-on creative projects that encourage them to design, experiment, repurpose, and innovate. 

Like students, teachers also need a place where they can do these things—whether it’s designing new lesson ideas, experimenting with classroom seating arrangements, repurposing instructional content, or innovating with new educational technology. Enter the model classroom—a teacher’s version of the makerspace.

My experience with a model classroom began at Marion Harding High School in Marion, OH. We wanted this space to be a place where teachers felt comfortable taking their students and facilitating learning activities, so our leadership team worked closely with teachers and students throughout the development process. The only direction our leadership team gave was to provide for flexible furnishings that could be easily moved for a variety of arrangements. Teachers researched instructional methods, technology tools, and classroom furnishings that they felt would enhance their teaching repertoire and ultimately student learning. Teachers and students provided valuable input on details, such as the wall color, style of student and teacher desks, and type of floor covering.

Through this collaborative planning, our model classroom was born. But in these early stages, teachers were reluctant to go there. They weren’t sure how to use the space effectively or how to use some of the technology in the room. And there was a general fear of trying something new. To help alleviate some of these concerns and encourage teachers to try out the model classroom, we began to hold professional development trainings there, showing teachers how to utilize the space. In addition, the staff watched a video of a group of teachers using the space, which started discussions about how this one room could change their teaching.

After several months of teachers using and experimenting in the space, we began to receive testimonials from teachers sharing how the model classroom had enhanced their practice. Teachers were incorporating new technology and digital applications in their learning activities and some reported a greater willingness to try out collaborative instructional techniques and performance-based assessment methods. Requests for the model classroom’s flexible furniture increased as many wanted to implement it into their own classrooms.

Students provided us with feedback as well. They expressed how much more exciting the lessons were in the model classroom. They said they loved that their desks were no longer in rows and how much more comfortable they were in the learning environment. They also discovered that they were able to work and collaborate with other students in more engaging and productive ways. And the best feedback we received? Both teachers and students shared that learning had increased, which was the ultimate goal of the model classroom.

At my current school, Grove City High School in Grove City, OH, our building is at capacity, so we don’t have open rooms to dedicate to a model classroom. With this constraint, we have had to get creative to develop the idea of a model classroom. Instead of a physical space, we have turned to the virtual world to share instructional methods, classroom design ideas, and new ways to use technology with our students and staff. Through Google Classroom, we provide our staff with resources, tools, videos, and lessons that meet the same standard of the model classroom without “taking up space.” While this technique isn’t ideal, sometimes you have to get imaginative with what you have.

If you have an open room—or even if you don’t—what would be your ideal model classroom? What are the needs of your staff and students, and how can you offer each of those groups the opportunity to create a model classroom that fits its needs? 

John Carder is an assistant principal at Grove City High School in Grove City, OH. He previously served as assistant principal at Marion Harding High School in Marion, OH, where he was named the 2016 Ohio Assistant Principal of the Year.

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