Classroom design ‘has a major impact on learning’

March 13th, 2015 Category: Schools

The design and appearance of classrooms and schools in the UK can have a major impact on the performance of primary school pupils, according to a new report.

Researchers from the University of Salford conducted detailed surveys of 153 classrooms from 27 different schools.

Overall, the study collected performance statistics for 3,766 pupils. The analysis found that each school studied had a mix of more and less effective classrooms.

It also collected performance statistics for the pupils studying in those spaces. Classrooms were assessed according to a range of different factors, including, stimulation, individualisation and naturalness.

Air quality, lighting, temperature and classroom design was revealed to have the most noticeable impact on the performance of school pupils, and accounted for half the measurable impact on learning.

In fact, the findings showed that classrooms with the correct natural light, temperature, air quality and colour can combine to boost progress in primary school pupils by up to 16 per cent in a single year.

Furthermore, the report revealed that the cost of making beneficial changes to the classroom environment is minimal and can easily be actioned by teachers.

For example, the layout and cleanliness of the room, the choices of display, or colour of the walls can make a significant difference to the educational progress of school pupils.

Speaking about the findings, lead researcher professor Peter Barrett said: “The research identifies many simple, quick and cost-effective ways for teachers to change their classrooms to make a real difference to a child’s performance in reading, writing and maths. We’re not talking about major investment on behalf of the school or local authority – quite the opposite: simple choices in how classrooms are used and evidence-based decisions when schools are being built.

“I hope our ‘Clever Classrooms’ report will become a valuable asset for teachers and school designers across the UK and can make a real and lasting impact on children’s learning progress at such an important stage in a child’s development.”

The research found that high quality electrical lighting is essential to provide a reasonable visual environment. 

According to the report, one way that teachers can help to create a more beneficial learning environment for their pupils is to clear clunky and cumbersome furniture away from the windows and minimise the displays on those windows.

Ventilation was cited as another important factor. In areas where the air quality is poor or there are high levels of pollution, this was found to have a particularly detrimental impact on educational progress.

Classrooms which have a lot of natural light coming in were also found to be conducive to study. The report revealed that large windows and glazing that allows in a lot of light without producing too much glare is ideal for most classrooms, particularly those facing the north.

Of course, with this in mind, it is necessary to ensure that windows remain clean and free of dirt and grime, which reduce the level of sunlight coming in.

This means that regular window cleaning and classroom maintenance is essential in order to ensure that conditions are optimal for learning.