New innovative learning environments: the way forward

In this era of innovation in education, new learning environments such as makerspaces are gaining popularity in school communities in Europe and all over the world. More and more school leaders are investing in transforming their traditional school spaces in pursuit of creating new and creative ways of learning.

"As teachers use makerspaces, they increase their own skills and develop effective strategies for supporting students."
Jill Attewell, author of the Makerspaces in Schools publication

European Schoolnet at the forefront of innovation

In this vein, our Interactive Classroom Working Group (ICWG), composed of 7 Ministries of Education[1], has been exploring the topic of innovative learning spaces in schools, and makerspaces has been its latest focus.

Makerspaces are physical spaces designed for hands-on, collaborative, and creative work in schools. In these innovative environments, students can work with a wide variety of tools and acquire practical skills which will better prepare them for the future, among other positive benefits.

The ICWG has investigated how makerspaces link to pedagogy, the curriculum, cross-curricular projects or specific subjects, STEM education, and skills development. As result of this investigation, it has recently published practical guidelines for teachers and school leaders on how to create, design and implement makerspaces in schools. Their main aim is to offer school communities an easy-to-use tool which will guide them through the makerspaces journey while unpicking the educational methodology behind them.

In addition, these guidelines also explore how makerspaces enable different pedagogies, promote collaborative teaching and learning, and offer benefits for students, teachers, the school, and the local community.

This publication is based on both research, analysed in projects conducted by the Italian Government's National Institute for Documentation, Innovation and Educational Research (INDIRE) and the practical experiences of several schools in 9 European countries[2].

The main report is accompanied by 15 case studies in which the schools describe their own journey in implementing a makerspace in their learning habits. Through interviews with their school leaders and teachers, we can observe that there is no one-size-fits all makerspace. They vary according to factors such as the physical space available or the support from local authorities, which in some countries contribute to the sustainability of the makerspaces by funding or co-funding them.

[1] The Interactive Working Group of the Future Classroom Lab is composed by 7 Ministries of Education: (Belgium (Flanders), Czech Republic, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, Switzerland), and they work closely with policy makers from regional education authorities in the FCL Regio project.

[2] The schools that have created their own makerspaces and are included in this publication are Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, Switzerland and Turkey.