Classroom Design and Layout: Do They Contribute to Learning?

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When we talk about interior design, we commonly hear how attractive furnishing and neutral colors can improve our comfort levels and mood. In a workplace setting, it is also recommended to have a functional yet comfortable design and layout to increase employee productivity. Therefore, can we apply the same principle to classrooms?

Studies have suggested that a classroom’s environment has an impact on students’ learning. According to Professor Robert Sommer, a U.S. environmental psychologist, a teacher’s educational philosophy is reflected in their classroom’s layout. Different methods of teaching and learning types require different classroom layouts, so classrooms should be flexible enough to accommodate modern education.

That said, how are classroom design and layout important for learning?

Effects of Classroom Layout in Student Participation

Professor Sommer added that there is no ideal classroom layout for all types of activities. For example, the “sit-and-listen” teaching style may require the traditional row and column layout, where all desks are facing the front. For group activities, desks arranged in clusters may work best. If a subject requires equipment, then a classroom layout with open space will certainly be needed.

A study was performed to determine the effects of two different seating arrangements in certain classes. The study covered 53 German and math lessons in a span of 8 weeks, with the teacher standing or sitting in the front the entire time. The seating arrangements used were the traditional row and column and a semicircle.

The results showed that in a semicircle seating arrangement, the students asked questions more frequently compared to those in the traditional style. However, the level participation observed in both seating arrangements were quite interesting, as the questions mostly came from students seated in a central location — the one shaped like a triangle in a semicircle, and a “T” shape in a traditional arrangement.

These results suggested that primary school students are better off in a semicircle seating arrangement because it can provide them equal learning opportunities. However, the teacher’s personality and teaching style still play a huge role in encouraging student participation aside from seating arrangements.

How a Classroom’s Design Affect Learning

Edudemic shared an infographic showing the effects of a classroom’s design on students’ learning. Interestingly, student performance can improve by 25% because of effective classroom design. Concentration is enhanced, learning is more supported, students are more inspired, their behaviors have improved, and they achieved better results.

A classroom’s furniture, layout, acoustics, lighting, temperature, and color were seen as the environmental factors affecting a student’s learning. The right set of fitouts and furniture reduce their fidgeting, increase their attention span, and encourage healthy posture. A flexible layout, meanwhile, fosters collaboration, interaction, and diversity. Bright, cool, warm, and light classroom color palettes stimulate learning and pleasant moods. Comfortable room temperature also improves learning, and finally, natural light provides a better visual environment, delivering positive impacts on learning in turn.

In San Diego, California, a secondary school adopts a flexible classroom environment where teachers can alter their instructional environment to best support the type of work they’d ask of their students. In Australia, several competent companies are also available to help schools achieve a flexible, innovative, and effective learning environment for students and teachers.

Considering everything stated, it’s best to re-assess the learning environment you provide for your students. If new schools are starting to redefine classroom designs and layouts, perhaps it’s also time for your school to evolve and adapt to the changing needs of modern students.

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