When it comes to education, there are many strategies teachers focus on: standardized tests, assigning homework, projects, essays, and more. However, there is more to student success than these traditional schooling practices. According to research on learning outcomes, it is not only what we teach that matters. The environments we teach in have major impacts on learning too. The layout, lighting, and furniture of a classroom can all affect how students learn and interact with each other.
While activities such as paying attention in class, doing your homework, and studying for exams all matter, there are other factors at play that go beyond the student’s control. Classroom design has been shown to improve students’ learning outcomes and impact students’ learning experiences. It is important to design our classrooms in a way that facilitates the learning process. By creating safe and organized classrooms, students are provided all the necessary tools to learn as much as possible.
Before taking a deeper dive into our current classrooms, let’s take a look at where classrooms began.
For many years, classroom design was primarily focused on functionality and efficiency. In the 19th and 20th centuries, it was not common for educators to place value on creating a comfortable classroom. Education was done in school houses which commonly had one classroom, one teacher, and rows of desks for students. This layout focused on maximizing the number of students that could be accommodated with little attention paid to the impact on learning behavior. These classroom designs were cramped and little consideration was given to lighting, acoustics, or other elements that affect students’ ability to learn.
Today, research shows that we should be paying attention to the basic layout and design of our classrooms. For example, the University of Salford found that classroom design could impact students’ learning by 25%. The catch? This study showed that classroom design had the potential to both increase or decrease student learning.
So what does this mean? For many of us, it is time to redesign our classrooms.
One of the first things educators can do to improve classroom design is introduce more natural light into their classrooms. Several studies have demonstrated that daylight has the potential to improve peoples’ health as well as students learning outcomes. Sorbonne University in France examined how students may be affected by exposure to increased or decreased levels of daylight during the school day. This experiment found that students performed significantly better in class when exposed to more natural light. Leaving the blinds open in classrooms as well as creating opportunities for students to get outside during the school day can all help improve students’ academic performance.
Another key way to improve the design of your classroom is to use a flexible classroom design. When students have the opportunity to make small changes to their classroom environment, it allows them to explore under what circumstances they learn best. Some possibilities for this include allowing students to choose their seats and creating spaces in the classroom for collaboration. Each student will have different needs when it comes to getting the best education for them. By introducing a flexible classroom design, each student can customize their learning experience which can ultimately improve their academic success.
Using color in another great way to improve students’ learning experiences in the classroom. Color can be used to make understanding the classroom as easy as possible. For example, you can use a color scheme to distinguish between each subject. If students have a green folder for science homework and a red folder for math homework, it will be easy for them to keep the subjects separate. By creating clear color schemes, students can spend more energy focusing on course material rather than focusing on where to find their homework.
At this point, technology is unavoidable: the real question is, how do we use technology to our advantage in the classroom? There are many benefits of having technology in schools. Some of these include an increase in student engagement and increased access to educational resources. By making computers available in the classroom, students are able to quickly answer scholastic questions and expand on how much they are learning each day. Additionally, exposure to technology early on allows teachers to prepare their students for the future. Technology is not going away anytime soon, so why not equip our students with these real word skills as early as we can?