Benefits of Classroom Design
Homes are laid out with specific functions designated for certain areas. Teeth brushing occurs at the bathroom sink while food preparation happens in the kitchen. Social conversation takes place in the living room but sleeping should be relegated to the bedroom. Knowing the function of each part of the home helps one infer how to interact when visiting new homes. The familiarity of common design translates into ease of use and comfort. In the same way, the physical layout of the classroom lays the groundwork for successful teaching and learning.
More than just arranging the desks in groups or rows, how the entire classroom is organized signals to students what’s important and what’s unimportant. When the physical learning environment is defined and arranged with a purpose in mind, students are able to ancticpate the activity that will be held in each area. This increases their participation and even improves their behavior (Rohrer & Samson, 2014).
Well-designed classrooms promote positive learning environments. They set apart various parts of the room for different activities. When students can anticipate the activities that occur in different areas, they can participate more fully and enter the area with the proper mindset. Moreover, proper room arrangement provides predictability. This has a calming effect on students because they can fully understand their environment and anticipate what is coming next. This decreases apprehension and places them in mental states more conducive to learning. Additionally, lowering anxiety typically lowers misbehavior as well (Rohrer & Samson, 2014).
Imagine walking into a neatly arranged store, such as Target or a department store. Everything is labeled, signage is everywhere, and there is an orderly flow to the products. Children’s clothing is near the infant area. Electronics are situated altogether rather than spread out across the store. Walking into any Target or department store across the country would find a similar layout, which provides a sense of ease when shopping.
Now picture the opposite, such as a bargain thrift store. Clothes are hung up on racks but tags are missing and the grouping is optimistic at best. Rather than being able to go straight to a section based on size, one has to work up and down the aisle checking every garment. On days in which new inventory is brought in, the atmosphere becomes chaotic as shoppers bustle throughout the store looking for deals. Clothes are discarded here and there as shoppers race to scoop up the best items. Classrooms should never feel like a bargain thrift store.
In addition to the learning environment, classroom setup also has a direct impact on instruction itself. One research study showed that how a class is arranged accounts for 16% of the impact on student learning (Barrett et al., 2015). How students are seated in the classroom affects their learning, motivation, participation, and even the relationships between teacher and students and the students themselves. The setup also affects the instructional choices the teacher makes, which activities the students engage in, and student behavior (Classroom Seating Arrangements, 2017). Classroom design is not just an aesthetic choice. Instead, it sets the tone for all the learning that students will engage in throughout the year.
With an optimized classroom layout, student concentration can be increased and behavior improved. Classroom design influences students’ comfort level, their level of engagement with the teacher, and how easily they can engage with each other (Classroom Design and Layout (Guide), n.d.).
Additionally, the layout of the learning space can support the acquisition of various process skills. The organization of the classroom can support working memory by limiting teacher language and verbal directions. When the flow of the room itself communicates what students should do, it frees up working memory for learning content. Students can focus on what they should be learning rather than trying to figure out what should happen in each area. Consistency and transparency are reinforced when teachers create visuals to support the daily routine, such as a schedule, labels, or other visual cues for classroom organization.
A well-designed classroom also increases student organization. Structures serve as a model to students for how to accomplish routine tasks, such as turning in homework to the same location every morning or sitting on the carpet for the morning phonics routine. This allows students to generalize and implement their own structures into their own work and thinking.
Task initiation refers to one’s ability to start a task independently. Classrooms should be set up to prompt students to begin work and prioritize which steps are needed to accomplish a routine. Materials, when clearly marked and accessible, provide students the resources needed to begin their tasks independently. If bell ringer activities are a part of the daily routine, students can initiate them if they are consistently found in accessible locations (e.g., on a shelf, on the screen, in a folder). Alternately, when materials are not readily accessible, students must wait on the teacher to provide what is needed before activities can begin.
Students model inhibition when they self-monitor their behavior and maintain classroom norms. A clear, simple classroom design keeps students from being distracted and allows them to regulate their behavior. One consideration is the use of color in the classroom. When used purposefully (e.g., alternating two colors when listing steps), it can help organize information. When color is simply used to decorate, it might confuse students. (4 Ways Classroom Design Impacts Executive Functioning, 2022).
4 Ways Classroom Design Impacts Executive Functioning. (2022, September 29). 4 Ways Elementary School Classroom Design Impacts Executive Functioning | Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/article/4-ways-classroom-design-impacts-executive-functioning/
Barrett, P., Davies, F., Zhang, Y., & Barrett, L. (2015, July). The impact of classroom design on pupils’ learning: Final results of a holistic, multi-level analysis. Building and Environment, 89, 118–133. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.buildenv.2015.02.013
Classroom Design and Layout (Guide). (n.d.). Classroom Design and Layout (Guide). https://www.educationcorner.com/classroom-design-layout.html
Classroom Seating Arrangements. (2017, May 8). Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning. https://poorvucenter.yale.edu/ClassroomSeatingArrangements
Rohrer, M. W., & Samson, N. M. (2014, March 17). 10 Critical Components for Success in the Special Education Classroom.