Hey School Leaders, 92% of teachers believe classroom design has an impact on student learning

A 2001 study found that 92 percent of teachers believe classroom design has a strong impact on students’ learning and achievement. The study goes on to state the following:

These statistics demonstrate that teachers believe there may be a direct link between classroom design and student performance. In fact, 99 percent of the survey respondents believe that school design is important for creating a good learning environment in their classrooms, 89 percent believe it is important for teacher retention, and 79 percent believe it is important for student attendance. Students and teachers spend most of their time in school and logic tells us that interior design should be important to them for making their school experience a positive one.

Do you believe this?

In a 2012 pilot study by the University of Salford and architects, Nightingale Associates, it was found that the classroom environment can affect a child’s academic progress over a year by as much as 25%.

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25%!

Yet, we continue to focus on many other areas when it comes to student achievement and growth. The first step is for us as teachers and school leaders to recognize that classroom design and environment play a huge role in our students’ success (read those studies and the many scholarly articles on the subject).

The second step is to identify what we can do to improve that design and environment to maximize the benefits.

I see this area as having two distinct levels of improvement. The first is to get the classroom (or any learning space) to a place where the design is not hindering student learning. If a classroom or learning space has broken chairs, old desks, uncomfortable seating arrangements and flooring, lack of light, and defaced walls…then something must be done immediately.

When a learning space looks like it has not been taken care of, students will respond similar to the ways citizens respond with the broken window effect. 

In a March 1982 article titled, Broken Windows, in The Atlantic Monthly. The broken window theory is explained:

Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it’s unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside.

Or consider a pavement. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of refuse from take-out restaurants there or even break into cars.

A number of studies have been done on the broken window effect to demonstrate what happens when the windows are fixed and the pavement is clean. In turn, citizens do not deface the building or throw trash on the ground. Their environment shapes actions, just as the actions impact the environment.

The second level of improvement is to design a classroom or learning space that improves student achievement and learning. This cannot be focused on just making the space “pretty” or “looking good”, it has to be based on research that connects to the cognitive performance of students.

That’s what we are looking for at Classroom Cribs. Last year we ran a challenge that had hundreds of teachers sign-up to showcase their classrooms on our site. Our focus is on brain-friendly learning spaces because these classrooms use research on brain-friendly environments to take the impact to another level.

This year our Classroom Cribs Challenge is open to anyone wanting to share what their learning space looks like! Please submit your classroom to the challenge and you could be awarded one of four grand finalist prizes!

Check out Classroom Cribs now and let’s put learning spaces and classroom design on the forefront of educators minds around the world!

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  • Greg says:

    I’ve had some experience with the Broken Window effect in my work. Years ago, I worked in a rather run down portable classroom building. I had ongoing problems with new damage and vandalism as well as just a poor atmosphere from the students. Over the winter exam break, I came in with wallpaper, bulletin board treatments, paint and cleaning supplies. Hoovered the place top to bottom. When my semester one students stopped by they all reacted positively to the changes and wished I had done it earlier.

    I had no further problems with damage or vandalism through the second semester.

    Environment definitely has an effect on attitude and this affects learning. Great article.

  • […] Hey School Leaders, 92% of teachers believe classroom design has an impact on student learning – A… Interesting discussion about the physical environment in classrooms and other school spaces.Backed up with some research too. “In a 2012 pilot study by the University of Salford and architects, Nightingale Associates, it was found that the classroom environment can affect a child’s academic progress over a year by as much as 25%. “ […]

  • […] Hey School Leaders, 92% of teachers believe classroom design has an impact on student learning – A… […]

  • […] better focus, a general positive response, as well as a raise-up-to-the standards attitude. The broken window effect applies to learning environments as […]

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