designing for the mind classroom layout

While the visuals in your presentation and student materials should follow good design principles to enhance student learning, what about the classroom layout?

Here at SweetRush, we talk a lot about “designing for the mind.” The way we treat visual design in learning can help or hurt a learner’s experience and ability to retain knowledge. We’re quite good at this; check out my colleague John-Carlos Lozano’s blog, where he regularly provides helpful tips for creative design—particularly in e-learning.

Today, however, let’s talk about the physical space in which we often train: The classroom. While the visuals in your presentation and student materials should follow good design principles to enhance student learning, what about the physical layout of the room?

You may have experienced that the work space you create for yourself—clean, cluttered, full of art, or free from distractions, etc.—impacts your work style and productivity. All the great spa designers use this same concept: Soothing colors, calming light and music create a physical space for relaxing. The same goes for learning; we can manipulate the physical space of a classroom to enhance the learning experience, making it easier to learn.

A recent study showed that five factors of classroom design have a significant effect (25{d89e4f83f6b6a066fc09cee339cefb53fa8e17050e8090b978ce7abfcf69967c} impact, positive or negative) on the students’ progress:

  1. Color – Providing enough visual stimulation around the classroom
  2. Choice – Quality of furniture in the classroom, and interesting and ergonomic tables and chairs
  3. Complexity – Providing enough visual stimulation around the classroom to keep learners’ minds occupied and focused on relevant information; goes along with color
  4. Flexibility – Can you manipulate the space to fit the instructional needs? For example, can the space hold the tables in a horseshoe shape to facilitate a dialogue, or are you stuck with theater style?
  5. Light – Concerns the amount of natural light in a classroom and the quality of the electrical lights

Let’s generate a discussion. How have you found designing the physical layout of your classroom impacts student learning?

Photo Credit: ShuttrKing|KT via Compfight cc

(2) Comments

  1. Erin Krebs

    I am a student at a high school in Missouri. I am working with a group of students and teachers to help renovate our room’s layout to better enhance learning. From the research i have made, the best colors for a room seem to be dull colors. The choice of color depends on your wants and needs in the room. Every different color means something different.
    We have been looking into furniture and one big obstacle we have is the price of furniture. There are plenty of fun, innovative, and movable furniture out there, but the price is what stops us from making a move. The furniture needs to be mobile and “different”. I have taken surveys from many students and most all of the students replied that they would prefer either high seating (such as a high top table) or low furniture that is close to the ground(beanbags, rugs, rockers).
    The lighting of the room Depends on the activity that is happening in the room. If the room is an English classroom, most kids prefer low lighting, like Christmas lights or putting colored paper over some of the in-ceiling lights. The walls in the room need to be 1 or 2 colors. There needs to be a minimal amount of posters/wall decorations on the wall, the more that on the wall, the larger chance of a student getting distracted and not paying attention.

    Thank you for the opportunity to say some words. I would greatly appreciate some feedback and some possible solutions to the money issue that we are having!

  2. Erin Krebs

    Hi Bradley –

    Thanks for the insightful thoughts. It sounds like you are doing some great work. Isn’t it interesting how the preference is either up high, or down low, but not at all how most every classroom is laid out? Distractions on walls are a good thing to call out; most classrooms have way to much happening on the walls which distracts from the learning.

    The money – that’s a hard one. Have you tried used office furniture stores, fundraisers, or donations?