A lesson for schools from trains
Posted July 14, 2015on:
Take a lesson from this attempt by the SMRT to improve travel experience. One of the ideas is to redesign cabins in order to create happy commuters.
The article also reported that:
whether a stranger gives up their seat to someone who needs it more has more impact on a commuter’s mood than infrastructural factors such as layouts and signs. A total of 43 per cent of respondents said they were affected by other commuters’ behaviour, 29 per cent by personal comfort and space, and 28 per cent by infrastructure and the environment.
Less than a third of the commuters think the physical environment made for a better ride. Compare this to under half who were more concerned with commuter behaviour. Despite the data that SMRT has, it is going ahead with the idea to make cosmetic changes to train cars.
Decision makers, particularly those that may not travel on trains every much, will realize how much easier, faster, and concrete it is to decorate a train interior. It takes more time and effort to change human behaviour and the results are harder to measure.
An effort that is more efficient is not necessarily more effective. A redesigned physical environment might change behavior, but it does not ensure it.
There are companies and vendors who make a big business of designing learning environments for schools. Like the transport decision makers, they often go for the low-hanging fruit and not many take the perspective of educators or learners.
A rigorous review of who the people are in such companies should be one of the first things school leaders can do. Doing this is just as important as having blueprints, funding, and good ideas.
Even more important is having data from kids and teachers to base decisions on and then making wise decisions. Above all, it is about putting the learner and learning first. It is not about a shiny new plan or doing what only looks good.
Equally as important is learning from the mistakes of the past or from other seemingly unrelated projects. The same article reported how SMRT train redecoration projects did not work as well as expected. The data indicated that cosmetic changes were not high on the list of commuters. Researchers even concluded that “We basically realised that we needed a paradigm shift that goes beyond just infrastructural or policy-type service”. Yet they barrel down the same tracks.
It is easy to look at another system and make judgements about it. We should cast an equally critical eye on our own and not make the same mistakes.
Short read: I am not saying that improving the physical environment is not important. I am saying that it is obvious, but obvious is not necessarily effective in itself.