A Third space can be defined as the intersection where new knowledge and discourses emerge from the blending and merger of understanding and experiences from a students’ home, community, and peer network with the more formalised learning they will encounter during their education.

When space is at a premium, finding appropriate places for students to meet or gather outside of the classroom is invaluable.

The purpose of creating breakout spaces is to create dedicated areas that significantly differ in look and feel from the more formal classroom environment. There are multiple ways of achieving this but consideration should be paid to colour, floor finishes, texture, lighting, and furniture. Carefully selecting these elements creates a unique, flexible, creative, alternative learning environment. Breakout spaces should be created throughout the campus, utilising spaces such as corridors, stairwells, library areas, dining halls, and outdoor spaces.

Benefits of a breakout zone:

  • Encourages clear and innovative thinking
  • Promotes wellbeing
  • Supports the benefits of social interaction
  • Grows a sense of community

Every Space is a Learning Space

Creating breakout learning zones and social spaces, where students can gather and interact, where young people can feel relaxed to be themselves is vitally important for developing social and emotional skills; however, the physical spaces are only part of the solution.

Some of the best ideas come from impromptu conversations and discussions, and a breakout space can provide the perfect environment for ideas to happen and be harnessed. They support interaction between students socially and encourage ideas to be generated and shared in a more relaxed setting.

Altimare and Sheridan’s research into ‘The role of nonclassroom spaces in Living-Learning Communities’ (Journal of Learning Spaces, 2016) concluded that: ‘Social connectedness’ can have a range of academic benefits with social spaces facilitating learning, supporting the notion that while every space is a learning space, non-classroom spaces help with the formation of community and identity.

Dedicated breakout spaces are used for solo study, one-to-one interaction, small groups, or to accommodate students working on projects. These spaces support informal learning which is incidental and unstructured.

Buy into Breakout

A common conundrum is to increase space utilisation across the entire campus landscape. It is not uncommon for spaces to be multi-functional, and just as spaces often merge into one another, the activities occurring do not always fall within defined boundaries.

‘Cleverly considered interior settings can accommodate many different functions across the day. Boundaries between what is a social space and what is a learning space; between what is a library and what is a community cafe, can blend and blur offering a great deal of flexibility in use across the day for many activities and users.’ (Visualising Change – Maggie Barlow and Kirstine Robinson of SPACE Strategies, 2013)

Creating micro-environments either through configurable furniture or semi-enclosed spaces introduce a more human scale to spaces. Too big is impersonal and too small can feel claustrophobic.

The potential to customise spaces in school buildings for short periods and for students to take ownership is important. Within reason, the furniture should be easily reconfigured to accommodate rapid changes in group sizes and ad hoc gatherings.

WF Education’s range of configurable solutions and flexible seating is designed to be engaging and inspirational and includes elements, including furniture to create structured zoning and complimentary mobile configurable seating.