What constricts student thinking? Walking into a typical classroom as a student, you sit at a typical desk, look toward the front of the room, and wait to learn preformed content. Perhaps part of what restricts student expression is the fact that the classroom space often carries with it unavoidable expectations for students. There’s only so much freedom that a series of forward-facing desks creates. So, how do you remove expectations in order to allow students, and teachers, more freedom of thought? Take them out of the space.

Brian Veprek is a Senior Professional Development Coach at the Center for Professional Education of Teachers at Teachers College, Columbia University. He is one of the lead facilitators of the Literacy Unbound Summer Institute, a program that brings together teachers and students for a 2-week intensive workshop to create an original piece of performance art based on a novel. For the first time this past summer 2017, Literacy Unbound took place in the Learning Theater, a versatile learning space where nothing, from the walls to the lighting, is fixed.

Brian believes that by occupying such an open space, students will experience an environment that encourages freedom of expression. And as a doctoral candidate studying Philosophy and Education, Brian thinks a lot about the importance of student autonomy. Instead of always thinking about what students and teachers should do, Brian wants to focus on what they could do. The Literacy Unbound program and the Learning Theater give students and teachers the space to explore these new possibilities as they work together to express a piece of literature in a novel way.

Music: 3 by Mister Drey