By Teachers, For Teachers
Learning is a core part of each of our lives, and the earlier stages (grades K-12) are perhaps the most crucial in setting us up for future success. It’s at this point that we experience perhaps the most formative phase of our education -- making these years of learning the most critical of all. While standardized teaching curriculums and classroom management techniques are in place, and debates surrounding different teaching styles rage on, the physical learning environment is often left to the control of individual classrooms. While it’s true that there’s no such thing as “One-size-fits-all” when it comes to the classroom, research has consistently shown that key elements of a child's learning can be heavily influenced by basic adjustments to their environment -- so, in today’s article, we’ll be shedding light on five ways to use classroom management via intelligent school design to actively influence our students’ education.
Classroom layout is perhaps one of the more talked about elements of school design, and can be a complex issue encompassing a whole host of factors - with class size, room size, subject, and age all being elements that should be taken into consideration. What’s clear is that a blanket approach to lecture-hall-like classroom design isn’t effective for every learning environment, and this inherited format is actively stifling the creativity and engagement of pupils across the entire K-12 range.
In kindergarten and elementary schools, a child-centric approach to the classroom environment is of particular importance. Our early years in education are just as much a social experience as they are a time for learning, with students developing social bonds and communication skills -- and this is something that should be nurtured in classrooms.
“Clusters” of desks can have a broad influence on a child’s learning -- encouraging collaboration, teamwork and creativity -- and can allow students to develop their social skills and form relationships. It’s a win-win for teachers, as students actively engage in learning while improving crucial social skills that will be highly valuable in the long term. It’s important, again, to stress the individual needs of learners and subjects; in lessons where a whiteboard or projector is being used consistently, it makes sense to have learners face the front.
Certain subjects, particularly skill-based subjects, can benefit from a workstation setup, where certain areas are designed to suit specific tasks. This can be particularly beneficial for younger students, who’ll be able to better associate each station with a task -- rather than simply viewing the whole room as a place for “Learning” in a general sense.
One way to champion safety and security in schools across the U.S. is to provide easy access to student-assigned school lockers and storage options. This way, schools can avoid having hallways crammed with coats, bags and other belongings, where they’re left open to theft and damage on a daily basis.
Aside from the security benefits, having a personal locker also means students are assigned their own personal space at school -- something many students lack. A hub away from home improves the security of our students, creates a connection between their home and school environments, and can even aid in the fight against back pain -- with students no longer being required to carry heavy backpacks everywhere they go.
An integral part of any design scheme, color plays a prominent role in mood regulation, creativity and engagement. Color psychology is well-documented and demonstrates the powerful impact that a use of color can have on learning environments; a strategically chosen color palette can actively drive student creativity and focus, if utilized correctly. The role of colors in mood regulation is a particularly interesting area, though the same rule applies that it varies between ages and subjects. Cooler colors, such as blue, purple and green, are effective at lowering heart rates, improving calmness and driving focus -- which makes them particularly suitable in classrooms with older students in middle and high schools, and where STEM subjects are taught.
Warmer colors like red, orange, and yellow are best placed in kindergartens and elementary schools, and in creative subject classrooms -- here, they can stimulate engagement, create excitement and increase brain activity. While certain colors are innately more suited to different age groups and subjects, an inclusive approach to the learning environment would see a variety of colors used throughout the school as a whole.
A distinct learning environment is one that takes individual subjects (and learners) into account. Designing the classroom in a way that makes differentiation easier for students will benefit teachers and students alike -- creating distinct areas of learning and allowing students to shift focus across subjects with greater ease. Differing design themes between rooms develops learning recognition for students, whether they’re kindergarteners or seniors -- ultimately deepening the connection between their classroom, work, and subject.
Achieving individualism in the classroom can be as easy as posting students’ work on the walls -- and doing so not only rewards students for their hard work, but also creates informational resources that can encourage student collaboration. It is important, however, not to overdo it when it comes to distinctive classroom design -- particularly from K-5. Children within this age group are notoriously easy to distract, and you may do more harm than good by making the classroom walls look overly “Busy.”
Designing a learning environment is about creating a comfortable experience for students, where they can learn with minimal distraction -- as our learning experiences are molded by the environment around us. In many cases, the immediate environment - comprised of noise, temperature, and lighting -- is lacking. Noise in particular is something that many schools struggle with; as our schools grow larger and infrastructure becomes more extensive, excessive background noise from other classrooms and traffic can be extremely distracting for learners. Regulating noise is often done best in new buildings, where the opportunity to install thicker windows and deepen isolation between classrooms presents an easier prospect.
Regulating temperature can have a profound effect on the attention span of students, with higher temperatures tending to result in lower levels of overall focus. Temperature regulation therefore plays an important role in maintaining classroom concentration, as well as the general comfort of teachers and students. The positive effects of natural light on productivity, happiness, and wellbeing should not be ignored -- and an overall improvement in all three is possible when both workers and students are exposed to higher levels of natural light throughout the day.
The classroom, and the education system as a whole, continues to evolve to meet the changing needs of our communities and society. With evidence highlighting the clear and direct impact that intelligent school design has on learners, it’s more important than ever for schools to put the learning experience at the forefront of educational debate -- or risk our students being unable to achieve their full potential.
Image source 2: https://pixabay.com/en/classroom-student-students-lesson-488375/