Schools as Professional Workplace


North Tower - 1st Floor - Garden 1

  • Primary Core Competencies: Educational Visioning
  • AIA CEU: 1.0 LU HSW
  • Secondary Core Competencies: Educational Facility Pre-Design Planning


A growing body of research is clarifying the relationship between built educational environments and student success. Responsive design professionals are using this data to develop educational facilities better suited to support the health, well-being and cognitive performance of students at all levels. Innovations in teaching strategies and a growing adoption of student-centered pedagogies have generated new space typologies and organizational models, challenging conventional school design and recalibrating our understanding of successful design. Yet the correlation between design and student success is incremental at best, and causality is nearly impossible to isolate. On the other hand, there is a single factor that has historically and consistently been demonstrated as determinative in student success: faculty and staff stability. Generations of studies have noted the strong correlations between positive student outcomes and high levels of teacher support, low rates of faculty turn-over, positive community engagement and effective mentoring. Teachers regularly survey among the most purpose-driven and mission-dedicated professionals in the workforce. Yet they also report among the least respected and most stressed. Beyond the academy, our commercial workplaces are being redefined by increased attention on the needs and desires of young and capricious generations, steeped in technology, globalism and commoditized social media. If educational environments were to respond to these forces the way the commercial workplace has, what would be the impact on teacher recruitment and retention? Is that, ultimately, the key to consistently positive student outcomes? This session will present a survey of contemporary workplace expectations and assess the state of educational facility design against those expectations. The discussion will address individual teacher’s health and wellness, and the impact that building conditions have both physically and emotionally. We will also address the unique characteristics of Professional Learning Communities and how facilities can best support collaborative team models and peer mentoring. We will explore the premise that an enhanced workplace for faculty and staff is the most direct route to positive student outcomes.

Learning Objectives

OBJ #1  Identify the environmental conditions in the commercial workplace that contribute to emotional well-being and employee satisfaction.

OBJ #2  Develop evidence-based design criteria to support faculty and staff wellness in educational facilities.

OBJ #3  Describe the critical relationship between faculty stability and student success.

OBJ #4  Evaluate design strategies to support effective faculty collaboration and mentoring.

Brian Donnelly, AIA, LEED AP, Associate Principal, Perkins Eastman