The 2018 federal budget for the UAE has allocated Dh10.4bn for general education and higher education over the next three years. As a result, we anticipate that we will see significant growth in the infrastructure of the Education sector.

Will these new facilities reflect the changing landscape of Pedagogy and the subsequent evolution of the student and faculty roles with this new paradigm?

Students today come to higher educational institutions with a consumer mindset. 

They shop for products as they shop for environments in which to learn and gather. Many also view the expertise and teaching of faculty as a service to be accessed through more active pedagogies and engagement with academics.

It is hard to meet the needs of the modern student if space and pedagogies are still didactic and traditional. 

Furthermore, studies are continuing to prove better learning outcomes and retention are achieved through active learning and respective environments.

Are we committed to teaching based on tradition rather than evidence base?

According to the UAE’s Ministry of Education’s university ranking, there are 4 pillars upon which universities are ranked (which in turn impacts the fees they are able to charge) the 4 pillars are: Quality (classification), Relevance, Innovation and Efficiency. Each of the 4 pillars is influenced by interior design to a lesser or greater degree. I would say that relevance and innovation are most closely attributed by the ID.

“The current system of education was conceived for a different age of humanity. It was a production-line mentality.”
- Sir Ken Robinson

Are traditional design principles relevant for today’s learners and facilitators? And how can one innovate on a production line?


S. Freeman, et al., 2014 found that undergraduate students in classes relying on traditional lecture are 1.5 times more likely to fail than students in classes that use more active learning methods. 

Engaging students with questions or group activities is proving to be more effective than the passive listening that lectures require. Active learning is generally defined as any instructional method that engages students in the learning process.

In short, active learning requires students to do meaningful learning activities and think about what they are doing. 

Research indicates that classroom design can influence, and often increase, levels of interaction and engagement. The design of classrooms can also help develop skills for life and work by increasing self-directed learning and collaborative problem solving.

Comfortable classrooms—physically and psychologically—also promote a sense of well-being, keep minds focused, and limit distractions. At Herman Miller we are also exploring how active learning impacts skills for workplace readiness (https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/03/21st-century-skills-future-jobs-students/_)

To accomplish these goals often requires a major shift in thinking about learning spaces. One form these spaces can take is that of a “learning studio.” The term is a metaphor for the artist’s studio, which changes based on the artist’s medium and project for the day. 

In the same way, a Learning Studio adjusts to the learning activity. This new approach involves changing both the physical space and the teaching and learning processes. It reflects the paradigm shift toward engaged teaching and learning.


• The furniture is tiered, not the floor.

• Break out areas for small group discussions.

• Support for technology, but not embedded into the furniture (present and future flexibility of the space).

• Mobile furniture to support various needs to the faculty and students within the space.

• Stimulating colours and natural light to provoke creativity.


As reported by 3,000 students from partnering institutions in the Herman Miller Learning Spaces Research Program, students within a learning studio are:

• 16% more likely to feel comfortable asking questions

• 28% more likely to be able to conduct group work

• 20% more likely to feel the classroom presents the appropriate image or the school

• 22% more likely to feel valued


• 83% more likely to feel the space is flexible enough to support various pedagogies

• 38% more likely to Be able to visually connect with all students in the space

• 95% more likely to feel the classroom presents the appropriate image for the college

• 72% more likely to feel valued


Of course, a learning studio is just one setting out of an array of settings required in the college campus of today. At Herman Miller we are eager to help drive the evidence infused design program and provide more desirable education facilities that students and teachers can thrive within rooted in measured deliverables and ROIs.

Whether you’re a parent, student or teacher I encourage you to examine closely the learning space provision at the University’s you’re considering. This research infers that space can either boost your grades or hinder them and as a consumer you might want to demand more from your choice of campus.

Of course, you already knew this to a degree, maybe unconsciously but now you are equipped with an evidence base to support your intuition.

If you would like to further discover how you can design learning studios then visit - www.hermanmiller.com/research/categories/white-papers/innovation-through-experience/ or conversely email info_dubai@hermanmiller.com and arrange an in-house seminar at your convenience.


“Active Learning Increases Student Performance in Science, Engineering, and Mathematics”, http://www.pnas.org/content/111/23/8410

“Lectures Aren’t Just Boring, They’re Ineffective, Too, Study Finds” by Aleszu Bajak, http://news.sciencemag.org/education/2014/05/lectures-arent-just-boring-theyre-ineffective-too-study-finds

Bonwell, C.C., and J. A. Eison, “Active Learning: Creating Excitement in the Classroom,” ASHEERIC Higher Education Report No.

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