Engaging the Third Teacher


This year we have been exploring Learning Spaces as part of our Dare to go Further journey with student learning. As a school that has implemented the IDEC model, we have transformed the way students think through their experience with inquiry-based learning. Our students know how to ask critical questions to delve deeper into their understanding of a topic or concept and they are as comfortable researching using books as they are exploring the digital landscape for knowledge. It has all been very innovative as students exhibit divergent thinking, however the environment in which that thinking occurs remains static with a similar aesthetic to the schools of our youth.  As we move forward, Caulfeild has begun to embrace strengthening the power of our “third teacher”.

“the learning environment is “the third teacher” that can either enhance the kind of learning that optimizes our students’ potential to respond creatively and meaningfully to future challenges or detract from it.”


Over the past week we experimented with classroom redesign by moving furniture in our Learning Commons to a Grade 4/5 classroom and our Digital Art/Collaboration Room. The students were asked to reflect on the experience of their “new” classroom design:

“One of the positives about this classroom is that I have a little more space. I also like that with the new furniture we have the choice to sit or stand during different lessons”  

“I like that there are different sized tables so you are free to move around depending on what you are working on”      

“When I stand up it makes me feel free and not trapped in my desk. It helps me to focus. Also, I have nothing to touch or play with in my desk so this helps me focus too”      

This new classroom environment helps support how we learn using the IDEC method. Here at Caulfeild we use digital tools a lot. Also, we have many projects in inquiry classes. Many kids have their own laptops and use them for classes like inquiry and digital art. This classroom environment helps us learn because to do a project with a group, you need big open spaces, especially when you’re doing things like drawing your own community on a big piece of paper. That’s when the tables help. Before we had tables in our class, almost every group went out of the classroom at inquiry time or any time we were doing group projects (to the library, digital art room, the flex lab, etc.) because we couldn’t do things in big groups on desks and needed open space. But with the big tables, everybody stays in the classroom. Nobody goes outside. Why? Because our classroom is the library, the digital art room, and the flex lab combined. As an IDEC school, this new classroom environment is very helpful for our learning. 

The overwhelming response at the end of our pilot was that the classroom redesign was a powerful exercise for the students and teachers involved. Students enjoyed the opportunity to choose not only their social learning space (collaborative or individual) as well as the type of physical learning environment (big table, small table, sitting or standing) that connected best with their classroom learning.

Upon a recent visit to Hootsuite, I observed the creative impact of work place design as the company values were inherent in every aspect of the infrastructure. Teams worked collaboratively in the open work spaces where the natural materials used in construction offered an atmosphere conducive to thinking through ideas and innovative thought. The world is changing and it is time that the “third teacher” in our schools inspires the development of the skills and dispositions we are working to foster in our students. It is time to Go Beyond the past and create the classrooms of the future.

The "new" work environment is intended to spark  innovation - Hootsuite is a billion dollar company (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/careers/careers-leadership/hootsuite-fosters-renegade-intrapreneurial-mentality/article22489697/)
The “new” work environment is intended to spark  innovation – Hootsuite is a billion dollar company (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/careers/careers-leadership/hootsuite-fosters-renegade-intrapreneurial-mentality/article22489697/)


  1. Great share about the power of good questions (essential in geniushour and Self Organized Learning Environments) and the use of space – my ‘fake’ learning commons has my class able to access and work in the classroom (with music on) the library (quiet space) the old computer lab – now I’m trying to grow more vertical spaces (standing tables via Costco for $40) love seeing what you are doing – so inspiring!!

    1. That’s brilliant. The vertical spaces are some of the most popular. My favourite quote from the students was that their classroom was now the “library, digital art room and collaboration space.” Yes! In my mind, the traditional four walls of classroom learning were torn down with that comment – even if just a little bit.

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