School classrooms have looked the same for decades: a series of individual desks angled to face the front, where a teacher stands to address the class. But with changes in teaching styles and types of work students are doing, combined with a greater understanding of the learning process, there's a growing need for a new approach to classroom design.
We've identified four key elements of modern classrooms, to help you design a learning space that works for students today, and will continue to meet their needs for years into the future.
1) Integrate with Technology
In recent years it's become common for schools to have dedicated computer labs, or provide access to computers in libraries. However, many schools now invest in laptops and tablets for student use in class.
As technology is playing an increasingly important role in classroom study, it should be at the heart of modern classroom design. The best learning environments are those which enable students to use technology throughout the classroom - so a good, secure Wi-Fi connection and access to power are essential.
This will help students and teachers to use technology anywhere in the room, providing greater flexibility and offering more collaborative learning opportunities.
2) Flexible Furniture and Classroom Layout
Modern classrooms are moving away from the traditional classroom layout, in favor of a more flexible set-up, to facilitate collaborative working.
For example, active learning has been shown to improve student outcomes: one study revealed that students who used active learning methods learned twice as much as those learning in a traditional, lecture-based class. Instead of simply listening to a lecture from the teachers, students are engaged with their learning, through a wide range of activities such as class discussions, or completing projects in small groups.
Therefore it's important to have a classroom that can be adjusted to fit-in with different types of learning activities. Rather than being rooted to individual desks in a traditional classroom set-up, students need to be able to move around and gather together where needed.
To maximize flexibility, and make it easy to change-up your classroom set-up, it's a good idea to invest in furniture that is mobile: wheeled desks and chairs, and furniture that is lightweight and easy for students to move around when required.
3) An Environment that Supports Learning and Comprehension
Teachers have identified noise levels as one of the most important environmental factors that affect the quality of their teaching.
Many schools already work hard to improve clarity of speech in the classroom: it's increasingly popular for schools to use technology to amplify the teacher's voice. However, this is detrimental to the overall classroom environment. Instead, modern classroom should look for additional design opportunities to reduce ambient noise levels.
Acoustical ceiling tiles and sound-control doors are a good start, but your school can go further to lower classroom noise levels. Switching from hard flooring to carpet can make a huge difference: hard flooring is very poor at absorbing sound, and is a major contributing factor to high background noise levels in classrooms. Unlike hard flooring, carpet tiles excel at noise reduction. Cushion-backed carpet tiles are able to absorb 50% more noise than hardback carpet, which in turn absorbs 3x more noise than hard flooring.
4) A Healthy Indoor Environment
As well as creating a supportive and productive learning environment, it's crucial for modern classrooms to promote health and wellness, and minimize sickness that could lead to students missing classes and valuable study time.
There are several design considerations that affect health and wellness:
- Indoor air quality - poor air quality can cause a range of health problems, including respiratory infections, allergies and headaches, as well as overall fatigue.
- Acoustics - high ambient noise levels are linked with elevated stress levels, which can cause long-term health concerns.
- Lighting - if lighting levels in the classroom are too low, it can cause eye strain and headaches. Equally, if it's too bright you can encounter problems with glare, which will also cause eye strain and visual discomfort.
The best classrooms are spaces that create a healthy environment that maximizes student opportunities for success, by removing potential barriers to learning and comprehension. Modernizing classroom designs will better align learning environments with the practical and psychological needs of the students using that space.