Design for Learning

Design for Learning helps turn 20th century schools into 21st century learning environments. As educators embrace new education models based on personalized learning and STEM education, they are often challenged to break free from a perspective that is dominated by the limitations of industrial-era school facilities. Design for Learning guides these educators and other school stakeholders to envision the physical space needed to optimize the success of the learning culture they seek to create.

Launched in 2013, Design for Learning builds on AAF’s decade-plus of experience in school design transformation to provide design thinking leadership that encourages innovative approaches to enhance the relationship between student learning and the school environment. Design for Learning employs an innovations model that first helps the key stakeholders – policymakers, administrators, teachers, and students – to see this relationship as one that demands change, and then takes them through a process of design innovation. Ultimately, the Design for Learning team assists in managing the transformation of the learning environment through the implementation of the planned innovations.


Since 2003, AAF has worked closely with the leaders of urban school districts to convene design and sustainability workshops, forums, and other intensive collaborations. Through its Great Schools by Design program, AAF collaborated with more than 100 urban school districts in every major American city, bringing education leaders, civic leaders, and design innovators together to improve learning environments and student outcomes. AAF also convened two national summits, a National Summit on School Design in 2005 and a National Design Summit for STEM Education in 2010 that brought together leading thinkers and stakeholders in design, education, policy, and industry to energize and advance a dialogue on school design. Through these activities, AAF recognized that a more comprehensive approach was needed to address school design in order for educators to realize the full potential of their new approaches to learning.

Design for Learning is that more comprehensive approach.


Design for Learning works directly with school districts to bring about the transformations in physical space that are needed to fully realize the institution of a new learning culture. Since its launch, Design for Learning has engaged with seven school districts, and is seeking other districts that are ready to embrace a new vision for 21st century education.

Galtier Community School

Design for Learning teamed with Target and the St. Paul Public Schools to identify and implement changes that would advance a culture of personalized learning at the Galtier Community School.

Personalized Learning Design Initiative

Launched with a generous grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Design for Learning is working with six school districts, selected by the Gates Foundation for their commitment to personalized learning, to transform their existing schools.


At a White House Summit on Next Generation High Schools, AAF President and CEO Ron Bogle committed to growing Design for Learning’s reach to 100 school districts over the next two years and to more rapidly scaling the program by launching a Design for Learning Leadership Institute that will introduce educators and administrators to ways in which they can re-imagine learning space to suit new learning pedagogies. AAF will also open the Leadership Institute to architects who are just beginning to specialize in school design. AAF is still putting together the details of its vision for the Leadership Institute and will make them available soon. If you wish to be notified when they become available, please email Design for Learning Project Manager, Anieca Lord at

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Posted in: Design for Learning, Print, School Design
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