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How to Design a Classroom to Improve Learning

Posted on Jul 21, 2016, by Michael Eckert

Improving student achievement is the main priority for all schools. Research shows that classroom design has a significant impact on student performance. So today I’m looking at 5 things you should prioritize in order to design a classroom that creates an environment conducive to learning and student achievement.

Feature photo: John E. Ewing Middle School, Gaffney, South Carolina, USA

1) Lighting

Repeated studies have shown that students exposed to more natural light in their classrooms perform better compared with students who have less natural light (Edwards & Torcelli, 2002; Tanner, 2008).

Daylighting design, using skylights and appropriately placed windows, can help to maximize the amount of natural light in classrooms. Additionally, this can be supplemented by using full-spectrum lighting to mimic daylight. As well as improving classroom performance, exposure to natural light has also been shown to improve students’ health and wellness.

Free Tip Sheet: 6 Ways to Maximize Student & Teacher Engagement

2) Acoustics

The relationship between noise levels and academic performance is well documented. High noise levels in the classroom will disrupt and distract students from their learning, and as such will hinder academic performance.

One of the best ways to improve classroom acoustics is to reduce background noise levels. Classroom flooring has a surprising impact on acoustics: hard flooring is terrible at absorbing noise, whereas carpet excels at noise reduction. The shift towards active learning environments requires increased movement in the classroom, to facilitate various learning modes, which further exacerbates noise problems.

Thankfully, there’s a relatively simple solution: cushion-backed carpet tiles absorb 50% more noise than hardback carpet, which in turn absorbs 3x more noise than hard flooring.

Learn more: 4 Ways to Improve Classroom Acoustics

3) Temperature

Classrooms that are too warm or too cold will be another unwanted distraction for students. The optimal temperature for learning is between 68° and 74° (Earthman, 2004). A well-maintained HVAC system is essential for regulating classroom temperature, but there is more you can do to improve classroom temperature:

  • High-reflective window films help to prevent overheating in the warmer months. However, these are best used in areas that have mild winters, because they block the sun’s heat year-round.
  • Using carpet instead of hard-surface flooring will insulate the room and improve thermal comfort. In warm climates, carpet won’t heat up in the sun as dramatically as hard floor, and in cold climates it will act as an insulator between the ground and the classroom, keeping the heat in.

4) Indoor Air Quality

Indoor air quality will impact student health and wellness, which will negatively impact their learning.

Allergens are a prominent concern in classrooms, and are a significant contributor to air quality problems: particularly in Elementary schools, where children spend more time sitting and playing on the floor. In rooms with hard flooring, these allergens are kicked up when people walk around, and float around in the breathing zone. Even with daily cleaning, sweeping and mopping does little to alleviate the problem, instead spreading the allergens further around the room.

In contrast, carpet traps the allergens in the fibers and keeps them out of the breathing zone. Once trapped, the allergens can be removed using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter. This means carpet is the best flooring option for improving indoor air quality: studies show that the breathing zone over a hard floor can contain almost 9x more breathable particulates than over a carpeted floor.

5) Technology

Technology is playing an ever-increasing role in classroom learning – from projects being done on the computer to presentations and videos being shown in class.

As such, equipping classrooms with the right technology is vital, as is providing technological flexibility. Classrooms will need a projector and screen for showing presentations in class, though it’s important to be aware that having a projector in the room will contribute to background noise levels.

Additionally, flexible power distribution, such as having power sockets embedded in the floor, will make it possible for technology to be used throughout the classroom. Some companies have developed power distribution products that rely on carpet, using carpet tiles to conceal thin power tracks that distribute power throughout the space.

4-Secrets-of-World-Class-Sit-to-Stand-Offices

Topics: Design

Michael Eckert

Written by Michael Eckert