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Learning Environments Essay

The education system we follow today began about 300 years ago. The aim was to facilitate standardisation amongst people who would function efficiently as apprentices. The system served its purpose towards practical outcomes very well, to that time. It became progressively more and more competitive. Schools focused on rote based learning aimed at numerical scores, with less focus on aspects like critical thinking, analytical approach, creative thinking etc. Students were pushed through this system under tremendous stress with little room for imagination, out of the box thinking, spontaneous decision making, leadership qualities etc. Only a smaller percentage of students were able to come through this system with such abilities fully developed. The system has not changed significantly in its methodology and purpose over a period of time. Thus, the present day system is less than adequate to bring out the full potential of young and creative students who do not cope with the rote regime.

Educational institutions should prepare and equip young minds to seek knowledge in a rational and scientific manner. It should also facilitate progressive growth of their intellect, creative and critical thinking and their ability to apply the knowledge gained. Recent study shows the increase in number of students dropping out of schools. Non affordability, lack of interest, inability to cope with the syllabus are some reasons why students drop out of school (1). On closer examination it will not be difficult to find many useful talents in these students branded as dropouts. There is a need to identify and nurture them for them to be grown in a positive manner. It is important that these students get due attention and care. It is important for these students to be able to choose a dignified career and excel in their field. Therefore, there is a need to take a look on how education and learning is perceived today and seek alternatives that could help in improvement.

SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY

The number of school dropouts in India is not small. In a study in 2010,
Reddy and Sinha? stated that of the more than 27 million children in India, who joined in Class I in 1993, only 10 million of them reached Class X, which is only about 37% of those who entered the school system and in more than half the states, only 30% of children reached Class X. With the implementation of RTE, of course, there has been a gradual decline in the annual average dropout rate from 9.1 in 2009-2010 to 6.9 in 2010-114 but there have been more children dropout in 2010-11 as compared to 2009-2010 in 10 out of the 30 states where RTE has been notified, including progressive states like Tamil Nadu and Gujarat that had increased dropout ratio from 0.1% to 1.2% and 3.9% to 4.3% respectively in 2009-10 and 2010-115 (2). According to IANS report (New Delhi, November 14, 2013), the dropout rate of 2013 was 43%. They also state that the quality of education continues to remain a matter of concern, both in terms of infrastructure as well as teaching and learning outcomes. Recent study shows that the dropout rate in India is dependent on factors like:

1. Family economic circumstances are important to meet the hidden and upfront costs of schooling, failure of which leads to many temporary as well as permanent dropouts of children. Hidden costs of schooling include opportunity cost, travel cost, uniform, daily expenditures, while upfront costs include admission fee, examination fee, tuition fees etc.

2. Poor quality education is another important cause of school dropout. Sen’s capabilities approach highlights poor quality education as a primary driver of school drop-out.

3. Failure to find a conducive social environment in school is also causes dropout. In 2001 Robert Croninger and Valerie E. Lee found lower dropout rates in schools where students report receiving more support from teachers for their academic work and where teachers report that students receive more guidance about both school and personal matters.

4. Dropout decision also depends upon the academic performance of the student. Poor school performance, low attendance and late enrolment are likely to be signals for teachers that children with these characteristics are more likely to drop out. In another study, Amit Choudhury in 2006 found attitude towards education as an important determinant of school dropout. Prof. Amartya Kumar Sen, Nobel laureate in Economics of 1998, has also pointed out that for sustainable development even the poorest of the poor should be provided proper education and accordingly steps have to be taken to bring primary education to the doorsteps of the rural people, since more than 75 per cent of Indians live in rural areas. Despite many measures for attainment of Education for All (EFA) goals of the new millennium, there, however, have been high rate of school dropouts in India.

Thus we see that school dropout is caused by many factors. Among many factors, some have greater influence as compared to the others. Possible suitable initiatives are required for mitigating this problem. Policy options, among others, include – elimination of poverty, improvement of school infrastructures, increased numbers of trained teachers, and adaptation of a curriculum that cater to the present needs and so on.

The govt. has now taken initiatives like Mahila Samakhya Scheme, provided quotas in various institutes etc. to make sure education is available to a large no of people. These programs and schemes mainly help in increasing the overall literacy rate of our country. Over the years it is found that students merely learn how to answer questions from an exam point of view. Understanding the information in a way that they use it in their daily life is not taught. Therefore, even though children go through the process of schooling, not many can be actually called educated. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (or the National Program for Universal Elementary Education) has initiated the Activity Based Learning (ABL) as a concept for primary level education in the corporation schools. This scheme has also been introduced in the Panchayat Union Schools. The ABL approach is unique and effective to attract out-of -school children to schools/AIE centers. The teachers who are involved in implementing this method have developed activities for each learning unit which facilitated readiness for learning, instruction, reinforcement and evaluation. ABL has transformed the classrooms into hubs of activities and meaningful learning. Hence there is a direct relation to the facilities design requirements for such emerging pedagogies. Education is now becoming a way to teach the child how to learn and express in a way that is fulfilling to his being. Therefore it is important for educators and designers to collaborate and create conducive learning environments.

AIM:

This thesis aims at making education a more meaningful experience for students (dropouts).

OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY

To develop a publically available space in to an informal learning space. This space will be accessible to children of different age groups and income groups. or
The study seeks to explore factors that facilitate quality learning and suggest a design for such learning spaces or institutions Attempt to study the psychology of the user.
Attempt to study the effect of architectural elements (such as, light, volume of spaces, colours, materials etc.) on learning environments.

STUDY QUESTIONS

How can architecture contribute to develop an unconventional (replace this word) learning environment? DEFINITIONS

Learning Environment:
The term environment denotes the totality of the surroundings and conditions in which something or someone lives or functions. A discussion about learning environments starts with a physical space, a virtual equivalent, or at least a set of organizational principles that had their origins in a conventionally space-influenced model. Whether a classroom, an island in a virtual domain, or a chat room in a learning management system (LMS), this core place features connections to other places and resources. These might be other learning spaces, but they are also likely to be places outside the educational world. A learning environment consists of a wide set of features that affect learning. The idea of a learning environment implies a setting where intentions and design cannot account for everything that happens; some elements escape control or are at least unintended. Environment, then, is a mix of the deliberate and the accidental, the conjunction of planned and unanticipated events. Space becomes environment
when it is stretched to include a broader sense of place, as well as the people who participate and the culture in which these elements are situated. Since students spend several hours of their day at school, it is important that they relate to this space emotionally and physically. The learning environment and methodology followed must nurture creativity and intellectual thinking of students to the fullest of their potential.

Informal Learning:
Informal learning is, by default, any learning that is not formal learning. For all learners this includes heuristic language building, socialization, enculturation, and play. Informal learning is a persistent and pervasive ongoing process of student-centered learning via participation or learning via knowledge creation, in contrast with the traditional view of teacher-centered learning via acquisition.

Self-directed learning:
“In its broadest meaning, ’self-directed learning’ describes a process by which individuals take the initiative, with our without the assistance of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identify human and material resources for learning, choosing and implement appropriate learning strategies, and evaluating learning outcomes.” (Knowles, 1975, p. 18) Of primary concern in this definition of SDL is the fact the learner takes 1) The initiative to pursue a learning experience, and

2) The responsibility for completing their learning.
Once the initiative is taken, the learner assumes complete responsibility and accountability for defining the learning experience and following it through to its conclusion. This does not preclude input from others, but the final decision is the learner’s. Self-direction does not mean the learner learns alone or in isolation. While, that may be the case in any given learning situation, the critical factor here, again, is the fact the learner is driving the total learning experience, beginning with recognizing a need to learn.

METHOD OF STUDY
The inquiry on learning environments is organized in two phases. The first phase develops through a literature search on alternative pedagogy that gathers a comprehensive understanding on the various pedagogical and theoretical works relating to learning. This chapter is followed by a discourse among educators and architects on learning environment and the architectural response to educational facilities design. A logical argumentative research is done trying to associate these statements with learning environments. The second phase explores selected case studies that help contextualize the above data and draw inferences to support the argument. The last chapter in this study builds on the findings and the analyses of the previous chapters to discuss the environmental factors related to learning, thereby defining the premise for the final architectural design solution.

Sandstone is locally available (Delhi). This makes transportation easy. It is mostly used to clad surfaces and has a very neutral tone. In Delhi, use of sandstone is very common. You would find it used in colonial buildings, Mughal buildings and even on pathways. The material has a slight matt-finish and generally creates a very warm ambience.

Exposed Brick: this material has a matt-finish. Bricks can be used to create various patterns in the wall. Ar. Laurie Baker used exposed bricks for low cost building. It is warm in nature and creates excitement when used with a splash of colours in certain places.

References:
1. International Research Journal of Social Sciences, Vol. 1(4), 28-35, December (2012) School Dropout across Indian States and UTs: An Econometric Study 2. International Research Journal of Social Sciences, Vol. 1(4), 28-35, December (2012) School Dropout across Indian States and UTs: An Econometric Study Material Used:

Walls: exposed brick / rammed earth
Floor: terracotta tiles / kota stone / sandstone


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