top of page



It is estimated that there is an immediate need to repair moisture and mold damage in around 1,300 schools throughout Finland. (Moisture and mold problems; press release

If the school building is an immediate threat to the health of the users and the problem is "too deep" in the building's structures, we end up with the design and construction of a new school building. In general, however, the aim is to find a solution to the problems in the renovation (as soon as funding is found for the project). Renovation unfortunately often means that only building technical problems are urgently fixed, and it is not noticed that the decades-old school building represents and also supports outdated learning concepts and forms of operating culture. The school building has then become an obstacle to the development and renewal of the school's operating culture.

Renovation of school buildings - an opportunity not to be lost

According to studies, it is difficult to change the existing school culture, and change has been found to be very slow at the community level.

Suitable moments for the planning and implementation of a change in the operating culture are various change factors related to the implementation of the operation or the operating environment, such as a new curriculum, school renovation or a completely new school building.

The ever-renewing curriculum has been an effective tool for guiding the operating culture throughout Finnish elementary school. The effectiveness of the curriculum in this sense has recently been reduced by the fact that the physical facilities in fewer and fewer schools are able to support the culture of action aimed at in the curriculum. The same seems to apply to the whole of learning environments more broadly. How should the learning environments be updated in order to support the action concept described in the curriculum?

A key issue in the renovation of school buildings is the opportunity for teachers, principals and other staff to influence the planning of the renovation at a sufficiently early stage. At the same time, renovation construction should basically include not only building technical repairs but also updating the facilities in terms of functionality. Updating the functionality requires designers, and especially teachers, principals and other staff, to have a clear understanding of two things: Which spatial solutions support the curriculum's operational concept, studying and learning? Which spatial solutions, on the other hand, limit the way of thinking, studying and learning according to the curriculum?

Teachers and principals have very different abilities to find answers to these questions. It is often difficult for a teacher or principal, who has possibly worked in the same school building throughout his career, to see how the existing environment can be developed to become even more functional. For this reason, the repair projects should include training aimed at principals and teachers about the whole of learning environments, i.e. the learning landscape, where they would be offered the opportunity to get to know the opportunities that developing technology and know-how in matters related to acoustics, for example, offers in relation to the physical environment.

In the near future, the majority of Finnish school construction will be renovation construction. Extending repair construction not only to building technical factors but also to updating the pedagogical functionality and functionality of the premises is very important in terms of the development of the school's operating culture. Pedagogically, we cannot afford to lose the opportunity brought by renovation construction to develop the operating environment and its usability.

An enabler and limiter of the operating culture

As a physical space, the school has remained pretty much the same in its principles. The school premises can be broadly divided into semi-private spaces (classroom) and public spaces (corridor).

Studying and teaching have mainly taken place in semi-private spaces, which are classrooms and other closed spaces intended for educational interaction. The spaces around these spaces are largely public spaces in nature, which have been used mainly as walkways. Many factors that already exist and will have an increasingly strong impact on the school's operations in the future, such as the diversification of teaching and study methods, the increase in simultaneous teaching by teachers and special support becoming a stronger part of group activities, have brought new challenges to the school as a physical space as well. In addition to public and semi-private spaces, there is also a need for private and semi-public spaces that better allow teachers and learners to work flexibly and versatile. The physical environment should enable studying alone, in pairs, in small or large groups.

New and evolving diverse learning environments offer wider pedagogical development opportunities than ever before. For example, the development of technology that is increasingly easy to use and constantly present, the change of working methods and culture from individual-centered to increasingly cooperative, and paying attention to the construction and structure of the learner's personal learning path are factors that already influence and will influence the development of pedagogical thinking and action. From the point of view of an individual teacher, this can also be problematic if the work community does not have a common vision of the direction of development, the goal and the means by which the development work is guided and implemented.

The operating culture reflects the prevailing pedagogical thinking in the work community, and the development of the operating culture requires a deep joint consideration of the pedagogical foundations of the school's and individual teachers' activities. The operating culture is displayed, e.g.

  • as teaching methods used by teachers,

  • as learning materials,

  • as learning environments used in school

  • as teachers and students interact and

  • as using the premises

Facilities are an important enabler or hindrance of the school's operating culture and its development. The changes that take place in the premises also act as an effective catalyst in the change of the operating culture and are able to direct the work community's operations to a wider and more comprehensive change.

Participatory design in school design is one form of user-centered design, where the goal is to get the users to commit to a new operating culture in a new operating environment, in addition to the design instructions received from the users. In participatory design, users are treated like designers. In this case, the users' most important task is to help the designers keep the right direction in the plan and to develop a broader understanding of the desired end result. In this case, users must be able to create a complete picture of how, for example, an old school building transforms into a part of a modern learning landscape.

Changing the school's renovation on a conceptual level to updating the school building requires seamless cooperation between pedagogical planning and space planning. Both pedagogical planning and spatial planning benefit from participatory planning methods. The most important thing in the process is the visualization of learning environment entities and the learning landscape from a pedagogical and construction-technical point of view.

The Learning Landscape perspective in pedago- gical management

What are the characteristics of the operating culture of a school where change is most easily possible?

Research shows that in such a school:

  • negative feedback on the activities of the work community and individuals in the work community is also sought and accepted,

  • commit to continuous cultural change and learning,

  • flexibility is encouraged in developing and following the operating strategy,

  • reward risk-taking,

  • are encouraged to take risks in defining job descriptions and

  • the focus is on strengthening trust and cooperation.

(Argyris, C. Organizational Traps: Leadership, Culture, Organizational Design. Oxford University Press. 2012)

For a long time, the successful management of a school has been associated with the view of sharing leadership responsibility with other members of the work community. Participative, shared leadership has been a strong principle. With the help of shared leadership, it is also possible to avoid the accumulation of tasks. It is expected that the operating culture and work methods will be developed in an increasingly cooperation-oriented direction.

The principle of participatory management describes human resources as the most important resource of the working community, the goals express jointly accepted values and action strategies, the effort to utilize all abilities and resources, trusting people, the effort to share and exchange information as openly as possible, preventing the emergence of domineering individuals, the effort to bring out different ideas and solution options , striving for active participation and striving for abundant use of small group work. Working in small groups has been shown to increase commitment to decisions and the organization and job satisfaction. It has also been seen to increase openness as well as trust and mutual support.

Since the learning landscape plays such a large role in promoting work well-being and supporting the school's basic mission, it must be strongly taken into account in pedagogical management and planning. On the other hand, the continuous and rapid change of the learning landscape and its fragmented nature forces pedagogical management and planning towards co-leadership and co-planning. One person can no longer be assumed to have up-to-date information on everything.

From a school of problems to a learning landscape of new possibilities

New and evolving diverse learning environments offer wider pedagogical development opportunities than ever before.

From the point of view of an individual teacher, this can also be problematic if the working community does not have a common vision of the direction of development, the goal and the means by which to progress towards the goal. The change in pedagogy is closely related to the change in the operating culture. The operating culture is a reflection of the pedagogical thinking that prevails in the work community. In a pedagogically well-managed work community, the thinking is in the same direction, and all members of the work community act accordingly. In such a working community, an individual teacher is able to develop his own activities as part of the working community with a safe mind. The development of pedagogy, and at the same time the culture of operation, places high demands on the pedagogical management of the work community, and special attention must be paid to it.

Building a new school or renovating an old school in terms of facilities and technology to meet current and future learning and teaching needs alone does not guarantee that teaching or learning will change. If you want to bring about sustainable development and permanent changes, e.g. to the appropriate pedagogical use of technology in teaching, you have to pay special attention to the change in school culture. Good planning, construction and furnishing that takes into account the different actors and their needs enable the development of a school culture that is truly visible on a practical level. However, the shaping and development of the school culture also requires the active work of teachers and other school operators even before the facilities are completed. If the school's operating concept and the working methods that support it have been discussed and accepted by the teachers and other actors, we will reach a situation where the facilities, furniture and technological solutions serve the development of the school culture and the times. Here we are talking about the development related to the entire school and its operating environment, the learning landscape.

In such a process, the school building, which was a problem, can be transformed into a learning landscape of new possibilities, where the student and the teacher have fun and meaningful learning takes place - even outside of lessons.

In the future, the system that guides the implementation of such a process will have a very large national, international, pedagogical, cultural and economic significance.

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page