The Physical Environment Of The Classroom Matters For Learning

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The classroom environment can affect a child’s academic progress over a year by as much as 25%, finds a new study:

“The research, by professors at University of Salford in Britain, was carried out in seven schools in the Blackpool area. Evaluations of 34 classrooms with differing learning environments and age groups took account of design parameters such as classroom orientation, natural light and noise, temperature and air quality, as well as use of color, flexibility of space, and storage facilities and organization.

The scientists concluded that 73% of the variation in pupil performance driven at the class level can be explained by the building environment factors measured in the study.

Current findings suggest that placing an average pupil in the least effective, rather than the most effective, classroom environment could affect their learning progress by as much as the average improvement across one year.

Peter Barrett, a professor at the University of Salford’s School of the Built Environment, said: ‘It has long been known that various aspects of the built environment impact on people in buildings, but this is the first time a holistic assessment has been made that successfully links the overall impact directly to learning rates in schools. The impact identified is in fact greater than we imagined and the Salford team is looking forward to building on these clear results.’” (Read more here.)

What about you? Do you feel that you, or your children or students, are affected by the physical environment in which they learn?

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4 Responses to “The Physical Environment Of The Classroom Matters For Learning”

  1. I have never seen this written about, and I was so glad to see this studied! I wrote about my experiences as a teacher on my blog. Yes, it definitely matters! I’ve taught in very small classrooms, huge classrooms; rooms that are too cold or too hot; loud rooms, quiet rooms. Try giving standardized tests to 25 students in a tiny, cramped room during a heat wave with no air conditioning! And it matters to teachers too. A beautiful, well-designed space can be inspiring and save a lot of time. Jonathan Kozol’s work has talked a lot about the emotional and cognitive effects for children in poverty of attending school in crumbling and ugly spaces.

  2. Has a retired public school teacher–all I can say is DAHHHHH!!!!. Of course the environment is important. How could it not affect! I once taught in a tiny rural school with terrible heating problem. The temperature would be in the the 50s and our kids sat in coats and cloves all day. They had to learn in spite of beging cold. A fellow teacher wrote the board of education number on the chalkboard(that’s how long ago it was)-and said don’t complain to me-have your parents call. But I have also seen room so filled and covered with posters and color that kids would have trouble thinking.

  3. The classroom can be a teacher too. So often the traditional classroom is simply a reflection of the teacher – posters he or she deems educational, items from one’s home, décor that suits his or her individual tastes. There’s nothing inherently wrong with what the teacher is trying to achieve in building a sense of home except that it’s generally the teacher’s idea of home.

    What if teachers were to take every single thing out of their classrooms over the summer, create a four-walled whiteboard by painting the walls in cheerful IdeaPaint, and evaluate every single object’s potential re-entry in terms of how it will enhance student learning? I’ve seen it done, and it’s extraordinary. The classroom becomes truly student-centered: walls are covered with students’ expression of ideas and untangling of problems, chairs are designed for collaboration or for separation, and space is fully engaged for the needs of the moment.

    I wholeheartedly agree that lighting and temperature matter, but there are even more ways that we can re-evaluate the physical environment to enhance learning.

  4. Judy Lundy says:

    This ties in closely with a previous blog about students needing a sense of belonging. The physical environment can make students (adult or child) feel safe and welcomed or alienated. For years I have focused on creating inviting, inspiring physical and emotional learning environments for my adult learners with great effect. I cringe when I have to facilitate learning in poor physical environments and do whatever I can to change them to make them more welcoming.

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