In response to global policy initiatives focused on school environments that support the teaching and learning of 21st century skills, education systems in many countries are investing in the innovative design and construction of schools to facilitate new ways of teaching and learning. In Australia, state governments are making significant investments in school infrastructure. The Victorian Department of Education has committed over $6 billion toward school infrastructure, with a projected 100 new schools to be built between 2019 and 2026. In New South Wales, the government has invested $6.7 billion, with promises to deliver 190 new and upgraded schools.
There is now a growing body of research that focuses on the complex relationships between physical spaces, educational practices and learning. Despite widespread agreement that innovative learning environments can support better learning outcomes and increased well-being for staff and students, newly designed schools do not always realise these desired outcomes. A key reason for this is the poor alignment between the intentions of the school design and the needs, values and practices of users in diverse contexts.
This paper draws on empirical findings from recent international research that includes the perspectives and the experiences of those who design and use these learning environments. We apply the four dimensions of a Responsible Innovation Framework developed by Stilgoe, Owen and Macnaghten – anticipation, reflexivity, inclusion and responsiveness – to gain a more specific understanding of what Responsible Innovation in school design might involve and identify what might help to guide future innovation.
We offer five recommendations for policy-makers, to help guide future innovations in school design by supporting governments, educational system planners, architects and school leaders to consider the suitability of school design in terms of its alignment with its users. We also suggest directions for further research to help fill significant gaps in our understanding of Responsible Innovation within the school building sector.