In Praise of Classrooms

Peter Boumgarden, professor of practice, strategy and organizations at Olin Business School; and Abram Van Engen, associate professor of English in Arts & Sciences


This year we have learned again to love the classroom—that lowly, unsung structure of walls and desks set aside for the purpose of learning. For learning has always been more than a matter of mental activity. The space where our bodies sit shapes the processes and possibilities taking place in our minds.

This isn’t, of course, a new idea. The power of place has always shaped how we teach: a large lecture hall with seats bolted to the floor will welcome and give rise to a certain kind of course. A seminar room, centered on a single table, brings together a circle of learners around a shared surface. In a room with moveable desks, the desks will likely be moved. Administrators try to book the space of each classroom for the content of the course, but the content that actually develops in the course depends a great deal on the space that administrators book.

So it’s not that we’ve never before thought about the forcefulness of the classroom; it’s just that now we have a newfound appreciation for it.

Read the full piece in Avidly.