Did you know that the layout of your classroom can have a significant impact on the way your students learn? Maybe you never thought too deeply about it, and just adopted whatever layout other teachers in your school were using. However, taking the time to organise the classroom in a way which is conducive to your own teaching style is sure to have an impact on your pupil’s attention and absorption of information.
Researchers at the University of Salford conducted a study into different classroom designs, and how they could impact the learning progress of pupils. They looked at primary school pupils and tried different arrangements of tables and chairs to see how their learning was affected. What they found was that by designing a ‘clever classroom’, learning could be accelerated by up to 16 per cent over the course of a year.
Of all the variables they tested, the ones which were found to be most influential on learning were:
- Naturalness: The lighting, temperature and air quality
- Individualisation: The flexibility of the design and ownership
- Stimulation: The colours, complexity of design and level of stimulation in the environment
As a result of the study, they published a set of guidelines for designers to help them create classrooms which were optimally designed for learning. We’ve summarised these guidelines here to help you create the perfect classroom environment too.
Naturalness of the environment
- Light: Large glazing is good if it faces north, west or east. Large glazing facing south should be shaded to avoid glare. If not enough glazing is available, high quality electric lighting should be provided. Keep windows clear from clutter to allow plenty of natural light and good views of the outside.
- Air: Ventilation should be abundant, with options to open different windows and at different levels. Classrooms should have enough volume for the number of people in the space, and air quality monitors (CO2 monitors) can flag up problems early on which could be affecting learning. Air conditioning which doesn’t draw in fresh air can mask the poor quality of air in the room and can create cold areas.
- Temperature: Radiators with thermostatic valves allow the most responsive and personally beneficial control of heat. Underfloor heating tends to lag, and is not easy to control.
- Sound: Schools near to roads or noisy neighbourhoods could use tactics like embankments, plants and other features to break up the noise. Classrooms can benefit from noise absorbing materials on walls and ceilings, and from soft furnishings and rubber feet on furniture.
- Nature: If possible, the classroom should have a pleasant aspect, looking out over green spaces and landscape. Window sills should be at or below children’s eye level. Plants in the classroom can help bring nature indoors, and can improve air quality, and choosing wooden furniture can make the room feel more natural and pupils more connected with nature.
- Flexibility: For younger children, a more complex design with ‘stations’ for different activities is good, whereas older children will benefit from a larger area with simpler design. Wall areas for displays should be available, and using low level furniture will ensure more space is freed up. A breakout space near to classrooms can be useful for one to one and small group support.
- Ownership: Pupils work should be used in displays, helping them to feel more connected to their classroom. Letting them personalise some aspects of the room, such as their peg, locker or drawer, will help them create a sense of belonging. Choose quality, ergonomic furniture to help them feel cared for and comfortable.
- Connection: Corridors should be free from clutter to allow easy movement, and having eye-catching displays at junctions or outside classrooms can help children orientate themselves when moving around the school. Having library facilities in wide corridors or atriums around the school has shown to be beneficial for reading progress.
- Colours: Don’t overdo it when it comes to colour in the classroom. Light walls with one feature wall in a bold colour provide stimulation without going overboard. Other bright colours using furniture, rugs and blinds can add additional accents to the space.
- Complexity: The floor plan of the classroom can make it more or less interesting, with visual highlights to stimulate curiosity. Balancing complexity effectively is crucial, whilst also maintaining functionality of the space.
- Displays: Wall displays add a lively sense of fun to the classroom, but too much on the walls can make it feel oppressive and confusing. Try to retain about 20 – 50 per cent of the available wall space as clear area to avoid overdoing the displays.
Using colour in the classroom
Numerous studies have been done to help us understand the psychology of colour, and how it affects us. Different colours can affect our psychology and physiology, sometimes soothing us and sometimes stimulating us. Applying what is known about colour psychology to your classroom design is a crucial step in creating an effective learning space.
In a study of college students, researchers found that:
- Green = relaxation, calmness
- Yellow = energy, liveliness
- Grey = boredom, sadness
- Blue = order, peace
- Brown = earthy, structured
- White = pure, innocent
In that particular study, researchers found that a yellow – green hue which was on the pastel side of the scale was most conducive to learning for that particular age group. However, it was only beneficial if it was used as an accent colour, i.e. on one wall and some furnishings, rather than plastering the whole place in that shade.
When choosing colours for your classroom, it’s important to recognise the differences between children of different ages. Key stage 1 children and reception / nursery children will tend to respond better to lively, bright colours such as orange, red and yellow. Pupils in Key Stage 2 (ages 8 – 11) tend to like more calming colours like blues and greens, and older pupils will respond better to more mature colours such as pastels, whites and neutral shades.
When picking your colours for your classroom, it’s important to understand how different colours work together. Use a colour wheel to find complementary colours, and avoid the use of too many primary colours, as it can look immature and overwhelming. You should also pay attention to the brightness; it’s possible to use shades like sky blue or lemon yellow for a less striking, more adaptable blue or yellow shade. Consider if matt or gloss will be better too; in general, matt is more adaptable, but gloss can be easier to clean and keep fresh.
If you require more information on choosing the right coloured education furniture, please speak to one of our team, who will be able to provide further advice on selecting the right colours for your classrooms.