21st Century classroom design. Just the sound of it is intimidating.
Maybe you’ve read an article discussing how the 21st century classroom design creates more opportunities for student-centered, collaborative learning.
Or you’ve talked about it with colleagues, pretending to be a seasoned pro in that subject area.
Whatever the case, you’re not sure what it is. Rest assured though. Because it’s a lot simpler than what you (and a lot of other people) think.
Read on to learn what the 21st century classroom design really is and how it prepares students for the real world. Not to mention, how students with ADHD are the real benefiters of it.
Breaking Down the 21st Century Classroom Design Using Starbucks
Go into a Starbucks. And you’ll notice that those rounded café tables look similar to the ones in your colleague’s classroom
You’ll also see that the famous coffee joint has many different types of seating options (or flexible seating arrangements): the communal table, rounded café tables (as we mentioned), and bar stools.
Yep, the new and improved classroom design resembles Starbucks.
And it’s not by accident.
Starbucks uses the small, rounded café table so lone Starbuck goers weren’t lonely.
Plus, they’ve revamped their floor design to create a personalized café space…for their 23,000 coffee store locations.
What we’re trying to say is that the coffee chain, like the 21st century classroom design, uses a thought-out design model that creates a personalized user experience.
In the education sector, we call it personalized learning. In the food industry sphere, it’s the customer experience.
But both boil down to the same concept.
Which brings us to…
What is This New Classroom Design Model?
As we mentioned in our article, 3 Dynamic Ways 21st Century Classroom Furniture Facilitates Student-Centered Learning, the traditional classroom design used to consist of your standard, four-legged chairs and desks in neat rows in front of a chalkboard.
This design made it hard for students to get out of their seats for group activities (if there were any).
The design didn’t involve very much mobility since chairs and desks didn’t have casters.
And, with the chalkboard in the front, the design catered to a teacher-centered learning model.
The 21st century classroom model is the opposite of this.
It’s a model that encourages a student-centered learning style.
This new learning style is based on equipping students with real-world skills. Or 21st century skills.
Specifically, the classroom is similar to the real world, in that students have more (age appropriate) choices.
(It probably makes more sense now why the traditional classroom design wasn’t effective anymore. In that model, teachers made most to all of the choices. This meant students weren’t able to practice making their own.)
One of the main choices is allowing students where they want to sit to do school work when given the option.
Another is deciding how to go about learning—does the student need blocks for arithmetic? Or does he/she use their fingers to count?
These two options help students create their own personalized learning environment.
Here’s the Secret: There is No Right Classroom Design Model
While in the education world, we refer to the 21st century class design as a single model, there really is no one-size-fits-all.
Think of it as an overarching term that covers any classroom design that uses school furniture to help students make choices on how they want to learn.
So, if you put two study carrels by the window for students who enjoy solitary work and Hokki stools in various corners for overstimulated students, you’ve got yourself a 21st century class design.
Piaget’s Constructivist Learning Theory Applies
The constructivist learning theory was created by Psychologist, Jacque Piaget.
It’s a fundamental cornerstone in education, being used heavily. It happens to be the backbone behind student-centered learning.
The theory is “humans construct knowledge and meaning from their experiences.” 
So, in the case of student-centered learning, students’ “learning styles, preferences, and interests” are heavily considered.
Again, this is the type of learning the 21st century class design emphasizes.
How Do Students Benefit From This Classroom Design?
Here are some reasons how students benefit from this design.
1. It Gives Students More Responsibility
Because the tables and chairs are on casters, you can delegate a group of students to move them to the side of the room for a lesson. (You could even assign this as a job.)
By giving students more responsibility, you’re allowing them to practice 21st century skills such as problem-solving and teamwork.
How are all the tables and chairs going to fit on one side without blocking the classroom entrance?
2. Students Benefit From More In-Depth, Collaborative Lessons
The flexible school furniture makes it easier for you to plan lessons that dive deeper into the material because you can create a collaborative space quickly.
You can then do team-based lab assignments, group problem solving, partner work, and “turn to your neighbor” quick chats.
3. Lessons Can Apply to Students’ Different Learning Styles
Not only can you make more space (via flexible school furniture) for collaborative group work but your lesson plans can apply to kinesthetic, visual, and auditory learners.
By combining several of the Thumbprint tables, you can have groups of students paint types of orcas and dolphins on large poster board after going over the ocean mammal life chapter for biology.
Visual and kinesthetic learners would benefit from such an activity.
How the 21st Century Classroom Design Appeals to Those With ADHD
While the 21st century class design helps to create a community of diverse learners, it especially benefits students with ADHD.
Read on to learn why and how.
ADHD in a Nutshell
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common mental disorder that affects roughly 5% of kids and 2.5% of adults in the US.
Students with this usually have trouble focusing and are impulsive and moving constantly in the classroom.
How the New Classroom Design Helps
1. Additional Storage in the Furniture Alleviates Clutter
The storage space in the functional furniture, such as the Soft Seating, provides more organizational space for things (i.e. books, educational games…) that otherwise may have been stacking up.
Better yet, perhaps you could assign the student with ADHD one of the Soft Seating separable sections. The landscape storage could specifically be his/her storage spot.
This is important since disorganization is one of the ADHD symptoms. You could help the student stay on top of clutter by assigning a designated spot, “better” than the regular cubbies.
Plus, less clutter means less stress for the student (and yourself).
2. Assign the Student a Seat
Several students with ADHD do better closer to the teacher, next to “well-behaved” students. You could wheel the Soft Seating close to you.
And, depending on the behavior, give him/her the option of another seat. That way, the student still has some form of personalized learning.
3. Utilize the Hokki Stool
This 21st century stool was made for over stimulated students. In fact, you may find the student can better focus since the “excess energy” is being released by bobbling on the stool.
- While 21st century classroom design may sound intimidating, it’s not.
- In fact, you’ll notice that the thought-out types of furniture and use of space in Starbucks is similar to the 21st classroom design.
- Both use the design to facilitate user experience. (Food industry—customer experience; education—personalized learning.)
- Which brings us to what 21st century classroom design really is…
- It’s the opposite of the traditional design. It’s based on equipping students with real-world skills.
- In other words, 21st century skills.
- The traditional design, on the other hand, is teacher-oriented, with the students sitting in hard, four-legged seats and desks, always facing the teacher.
- This design gave most (if not all) choice to the teacher, who didn’t need practice making responsible decisions.
- Furniture helps facilitate the 21st design.
- But know that there is no one-size-fits-all with this design model.
- Think of it as an overarching term.
- So, if you have furniture that emphasizes personalized learning, your classroom design is 21st century.
- Student-centered learning, the learning style the design is about, was based on (famous psychiatrist) Jacque Piaget’s constructivist learning theory.
- The theory takes into consideration a person’s learning style, interests, and preferences.
- Overall, the design is beneficial to students, as it gives them more responsibility and ways for them to practice 21st century skills.
- That and students learn more because teachers do more group work, using the collaborative space.
- And can present information to a diverse range of learning styles (i.e. auditory, visual, kinesthetic).
- ADHD is a common mental disorder in which people have trouble staying focused, among a number of other symptoms.
- The 21st century class design is beneficial because designated yet flexible seating and organizational space helps students with ADHD stay attentive and organized.
- And the Hokki stool is great to manage any excess energy that needs to be released.
Questions and Comments
What’s your experience like with the 21st century class design? How has it facilitated you and your students in personalized learning? Let us know!
 Edutopia: Bridging the ADHD Gap
 American Psychiatric Association: ADHD
 American Psychiatric Association: ADHD