How classroom design influences learning

A new study has shown that the physical characteristics of primary schools affect the progress of students in reading, writing, and maths. Specifically, classroom environment explained 16% of the variation in progress experienced by students in the study.

To reach this conclusion, researchers from the University of Salford surveyed 153 classrooms in 27 primary schools in England. Measurements were taken of room size, layout, and environmental factors such as temperature, light, and noise. This information was compared with the teacher-assessed progress of students over the year in reading, writing, and maths. A total of 3,766 students aged 5 to 11 who were using the classrooms took part.

Multi-level modelling was used to identify those environmental factors that had the most effect on student progress. Around half of the effect was associated with “Naturalness” factors – light, temperature, and air quality. The remainder was divided between “Stimulation” – the colour and complexity of the classroom – and “Individualisation” – the amount of personalisation and flexibility of the space. Whole-school factors, such as shared spaces, corridors through school, and the external space, were not found to be significant.

A report accompanying the study includes a number of ideas for low-cost changes that can be made to classrooms to improve the environment for learning.

Source: The impact of classroom design on pupils’ learning: Final results of a holistic, multi-level analysis (2015), Building and Environment.

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