The Third Teacher

How a student’s environment affects their learning

In the 1940s, Loris Malaguzzi, the founder of the Reggio Emilia teaching philosophy, premised that the successive teachers in a child’s development were first the adults around them, then their peers, and finally their environment— The Third Teacher.  The fact that a student’s environment affects their learning is a well-known fact with a plethora of studies to support it but the concept of it also being a teacher in itself is revolutionary, to say the least.  The question that follows this discovery is quite simply, “Then how should an environment teach?”

With an increasingly competitive international workforce, we as future teachers carry the growing responsibility of preparing elementary and high school students for the world.  To ignore the importance of a student’s environment is not simply ignorant but irresponsible.[3]

Orestad College in Copenhagen, Denmark developed their facilities to “promote reflective, collaborative learning that mimics the way teenagers think, learn and socialize.”  As opposed to the prototypical boxy, self-contained classroom structure of most learning facilities, it is designed with many open spaces that “flow” in to each other.  Chicago Public Schools are also taking steps to create a school environment that adapts to the students rather than the students having to adapt to it.[2]

Going back to our original question, “How should an environment teach?”  Simply put, the same way a teacher should teach.  It should be open, receptive and adaptable, inviting, and also able to establish a relationship with the student.  The first place to start any reform is in the place that needs it most – your classroom.  Check out the awesome version of this blog for how you can create your future classroom to be the third teacher. 

VIEW THIS BLOG IN AWESOME MODE! (awesome goggles recommended)


Architects, O., Design, B. M., & Furniture, V. (2010). The Third Teacher: 79 Ways You Can Use Design to Transform Teaching & Learning. New York: Abrams.

Le, T. (n.d.). Wanna Improve Education? Demolish the Classrooms | Co.Design. Co.Design. Retrieved September 1, 2010, from

Oklahoma State Department of Education  . (n.d.). Oklahoma State Department of Education  . Retrieved September 1, 2010, from

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