We spend too much time managing the 30 percent. In higher education, most of what a student learns is learned outside the classroom—up to 70 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Yet we spend very little, if any, time worrying about or designing appropriate learning environments outside classrooms.
In a presentation on TED.com titled "Why We Don’t Understand As Much As We Think We Do," British educational media consultant Jonathan Drori argues that learning without a strong experiential component may miss the mark.
"Children get their ideas not from teachers, as teachers often think, but from common sense, from the world around them, from … experience." And when we gain our knowledge only from teachers outside of the real-world context, the knowledge often is without understanding.
The truth is that most classrooms really are places created for the convenience of teaching and not as the best places to learn. Have you ever wondered why some schools move the students from room to room instead of the teachers? Or why the teacher’s desk is at the front of the room and the seats in an austere row-by-column configuration? Everything about the typical classroom clearly is about the instructor-teacher and not the student-learner experience.
We probably won’t do away with classrooms anytime soon—but we should be taking a broad design approach to learning environments that goes well beyond the classroom and encompasses the whole of the student experience. A school or college campus should foster a deep cross-section of learning experiences that supports a hands-on inquiry and engages students in a passionate search for knowledge—in other words, the anti-thesis of what often is the hallmark of many institutions. Not the big white box, sage-on-stage approach we’ve taken for the last 150 years, but a much more contextual, immediate and active learner-centered approach.