So much of the attention surrounding education focuses on how teachers teach, and for obvious reasons. It’s a teacher’s job to impart information to a classroom filled with unique individuals, each learning in different ways, for a variety of reasons.
However, we’re learning that in order to develop successful, well-educated students who thrive outside the classroom, there’s more to consider than how we teach. As it turns out, the actual design of the physical learning space matters just as much as the method of teaching does.
In fact, according to one University’s research, a well-designed classroom “can boost learning progress…by up to 16 percent in a single year.” When discussing the findings of this research project, the Chair of the National Association for Primary Education (NAPE) in the UK, suggested that “the most powerful impact is made by the physical design of the particular classroom in which they spend such a vitally important time with their teacher.”
So what then, does a ‘well-designed’ learning space look like? Chances are, it bears little resemblance to what many of us consider a typical classroom. We believe that expecting yesterday’s classroom to serve the needs of today’s student is unrealistic. It’s unlikely that the traditional classroom ever provided the ideal learning environment for students, anyway.
In contrast, a well-designed learning space will:
1. Promote movement, rather than stifling it.
It’s no secret that movement is good for people, and adults and students alike benefit from regular physical activity. Designing the classroom to embrace this mentality will help students focus and engage more effectively in the classroom. Instead of chastising students for fidgeting or wiggling too much, schools can encourage increased movement in a controlled manner. Great examples include rocking or tilting chairs, exercise balls, or stand-up desks.
One particular study from a US University found dramatic benefits in classrooms with stand-up desks (like this one). The results demonstrated a 12 percent improvement of on-task engagement for students standing as opposed to those who used a traditional desk. According to the study, this “equates to an extra seven minutes per hour of engaged instruction time.”
Another bonus to supporting more movement in the classroom is the impact on society’s alarming childhood obesity rate. Students who use standing desks are reported to burn between 15-25 percent more calories than their seated counterparts.
2. Provide students with choices.
A well-designed classroom, managed by a skilled educator, will allow students to make choices that impact their own learning. Instead of filling the classroom with a cookie-cutter selection of workstations, provide a variety, and then allow each student to select the space that works best for their learning needs. Some may opt for the standing desk, while others will prefer to sit on a bouncy, exercise ball while they work. The point is, they develop self-awareness and control: two skills that will serve them well long after they leave the classroom.
3. Create equal learning opportunities.
Where a student sits in the classroom has a lasting impact on their education, not to mention their social interactions. As a result, the layout of the classroom is critical. Instead of lining the workstations up in rows, like in the conventional classroom, teachers can instead opt for a more collaborative layout. In a circle arrangement, every student is positioned equally and the teacher can easily navigate around the class. While this requires teachers to sacrifice the large ‘teacher’s zone’ at the front of the classroom, the benefits to this balanced learning environment will be worth it.
At CDI Spaces, we exist to create well-designed learning environments for your educators and of course, your students. As the leading provider of educational furniture for schools throughout Alberta, we’re confident that you’ll appreciate the quality of product and client care we provide.
To book a meeting with a consultant, contact us today. We would love to hear from you.
Your company is one of significant integrity and care. That will not be forgotten and will be shared with our school board and others.
Dr. Gordon Breen.
Little Red River Board of Education