As state governments invest billions of dollars on new-build schools each year, Monash University researchers say educators need to be just as much a part of this process as the design and construction teams, so they can inform the design of innovative learning spaces.
A study of more than 8000 peer-reviewed research articles found school leaders were not only alienated from the classroom design process, but weren't provided with adequate training to support teachers in their transition from traditional to contemporary classrooms.
Students were also excluded from the school design process in all but one case study.
The report by Professor Joanne Deppeler and Dr Kathleen Aikens from Monash University's Faculty of Education calls on policy-makers to engage a wide range of stakeholders in the school design process, so classrooms of the future are designed with a 21st century mindset.
This includes the need for physical spaces to be easily reconfigured for multiple teaching and learning purposes - and even community events - researchers say.
"Accommodating the learning needs of a diverse and increasing population requires forward-thinking and co-ordinated planning systems," Professor Deppeler said.
Physical classroom spaces accommodating the learning needs of a diverse and increasing population requires forward-thinking and co-ordinated planning systems.Professor Deppeler, Monash University's Faculty of Education
"Yet newly designed schools don't always realise desired outcomes.
"A key reason for this is the poor alignment between the intentions of the school design and the needs, practices and values of users in diverse contexts."
Classrooms of the future must consider the diverse nature of 21st century learning, including population growth, cultural diversity, extreme weather events and increasing temperatures, according to the researchers.
This is why staff must be provided with professional learning opportunities that are sustained and authentic, and have the chance to shape school design processes and teaching practices that evolve over time, they said.
Individual schools should also be assessed regularly to see whether its educational, social and economic benefits align with contemporary expectations placed on learning bodies by parents, students and the government sector.
Research shows that when newly constructed schools are not fit for purpose, retrofits and adaptations can be costly and may not always result in the intended aims of the innovative design.
"Governments in Australia, and internationally, are investing billions of dollars in new school projects.
"But it's critical that new investments in learning are future-resilient and have the ability to adapt to uncertainty and variance," Dr Aikens said.
Classroom spaces need to join teaching and learning in the 21st century.