The importance of a well designed learning resource centre
With technology evolving in the everyday world at an alarming pace, it’s no wonder that schools and educational settings are keen to stay abreast of the latest developments. And with 80% of educators recognising technology as a great way to improve engagement in classrooms, school’s are looking at how they can best harness the power of the microchip.
Staying ahead of the curve is not easy. Investment plays a large part in remaining relevant; spending on technology in schools hit a staggering £900 million by the end of 2020. But throwing money at new tech is not the only answer. The resources must be carefully and sensitively installed, show an awareness of the children’s requirements, and above all – enhance the learning. Which brings us to the Learning Resource Centre.
What is a learning resource centre?
Often replacing the school library, the learning resource centre provides: “a suitable educational environment that allows learners to benefit from any kind of learning resources.” It is a place where students and teachers can come together to practise independent learning through a variety of tools and facilities. But a learning resource centre should offer more than a modernisation of the school library. When correctly designed, the LRC should serve as a hub for school life. It should not only promote practices of good learning, but nurture community, aid socialisation, and develop the skills that the pupils need to thrive in the modern world.
Why is the LRC so relevant in modern education?
“Libraries used to be for reading books. But these days, they seem to cater to everything but. In most libraries, readers are second-class citizens.” (Samuel Williams, Spectator)
Libraries have long been fighting a losing battle against technology, for a while, schools tried to delay the inevitable, but this just led to an unhappy wave of ‘shushing’ librarians and dusty rows of untouched books. Schools now recognise the importance of integrating technology to work alongside other media such as books, magazines, and journals. And this is where the importance of design is most relevant. Learning resource centres should be planned as separate entities. Adding a few plug sockets and replacing the most tired bookshelves with desks does not constitute the conversion of a library into an LRC. The slate should be wiped clean and careful consideration paid to the specific requirements of the pupils and the space in which they will operate. It is crucial that schools place learning resource centres at the heart of their environment; allowing communication, collaboration, and creative skills to thrive.
The impact on learning.
Brian Edwards undertook a comprehensive study examining the changing role and design of resource buildings. He completed critical evaluations of international case studies exploring the principles of learning design. His work drilled down into the fundamental impacts of learning resource centres on academic achievement and he discovered that when properly implemented they can become: “dramatic enclosures for knowledge dissemination, research, and learning.” He particularly praised the ability of the learning resource centre to: “encourage the sharing of knowledge and to welcome the spoken word between individuals and groups.
What to include in an LRC?
Clearly defined areas allowing for flexible learning opportunities are key to making an LRC work. There should be a range of the usual electronic resources, access to web-based information and facilities, and adequate places to work individually and collaboratively. A range of furniture should be included and the LRC should be an inspirational place in which to spend time.
And don’t be tempted to throw away the books. A recent study discovered that: “the time children spend reading a book instead of a tablet results in higher levels of literacy and a greater likelihood that they will read more.”
There is still a place for the printed word in the LRC, and books should be celebrated rather than confined to a dusty corner of the room.
The importance of the LRC on social development and interaction.
As well as being an invaluable place in which to learn, the LRC plays a far more important role as a centre for social interaction. By providing a range of seating spaces in which users can communicate and socialise, the LRC encourages conversation and aids the personal development of the entire school community.
Who should use it?
There should be no barriers to accessing the LRC. Whilst timetabling might be necessary to ensure that everyone who enjoys the space can do so safely and effectively, all ages should be able to access the benefits of this inspirational space.
Keep it safe.
An important consideration for schools designing a new learning resource centre is the safety and protection it offers to all of its staff and pupils. In the past, libraries have been considered safe havens for those looking for a break from the stresses and strains of school life, so this should be an important factor with the introduction of the LRC. Pupils must be able to find sanctuary in the environment whilst feeling safe and protected.
Staffing the LRC.
Brian Edwards identifies that: “the role of staff is to aid navigation through types and modes of knowledge, rather than exercise security or sit behind a desk.”
Staff timetabled to supervise in the LRC should avoid seeing this as a chance to catch up on their emails. An effectively utilised learning resource centre requires staff to gently guide the pupils towards making the most of the available facilities. In the first instance, this might simply involve signposting students towards resources, areas in which to work, or suggesting reading materials to aid their studies. But as the LRC develops, staff should be challenging children’s thinking in order to develop independent learning and critical thinking.
This might seem like a lot to get right, but the dramatic impact on children’s learning makes it well worth the effort.
If you’d like to chat about how you can transform the environment within your school, and place intelligent design at the heart of your resource centre, get in touch…
Contact us on +44 (0) 20 8997 9656 or firstname.lastname@example.org