Think for a moment about how much time as a student, and as an educator, we spend in a classroom or classroom-like setting. Think also about what needs you have in your workspace in order to be productive, efficient, and energized. Now, reflect on the learning space in which you work. Are you optimizing your space for creating a positive learning environment? In this article, we will discuss the main things to focus on when constructing a learning environment for young students.
Basics of Classroom Design
A simple place to begin in terms of classroom design are the basics of using the space:
- Is it clean?
- Is it cozy?
- Is it engaging?
We will unpack each of these in detail.
This simply refers to the upkeep of the space. Think about things like whether or not the classroom is being cleaned on a regular basis. Are spills handled right away? Are supplies neatly organized with designated locations? Are children expected to adhere to rules about where things belong in the room? Educate children on sanitation and cleanliness. This is important not only for creating a healthy learning environment in terms of physical wellbeing and hygiene, but also in terms of eliminating visual distractions in the space. A room that looks and feels chaotic can detract from the ability of children, and educators, to focus on learning. Also, consider your own workspace. Is your desk tidy? Lead students by example by keeping a clear and organized desk and tidy up at the end of the day so that you are ready for the next morning.
Coziness can be achieved in a number of ways. In this case we are referring to whether or not the space feels comfortable, and whether or not it is a space that students can connect with individually. Therefore, coziness involves things like having calming colour schemes and comfortable spaces, as well as doing things like being sure to display student art. This allows children to see themselves and their presence in the room.
Do you have things in the room that peak students’ interest? Some sites suggest things like a classroom pet! We do acknowledge that a classroom pet may not always be practical, and if you are going to go down this route be sure to review health and safety guidelines for such an endeavour. However, the classroom can be made engaging in a variety of ways. For younger groups this may mean having centres that are interesting, fun, and relevant for the children’s developmental stage. In other instances, this may tie into the idea of coziness and involve making sure the space is visually engaging (without being over-stimulating).
10 steps for effective classroom design
Judith Colbert in her popular article Classroom Design and How It Influences Behaviour discusses the ways in which the classroom environment is essential to facilitating learning. Broadly, she suggests that classroom design involves organization, teacher involvement, research on classroom design, reflection on educational philosophy, and collaboration with other professionals. More specifically, she also recommends 10 steps for more effective classroom design:
- Reflect on your own educational philosophy
- Consider your philosophy in relation to your space and program
- Consider your students’ specific developmental needs
- Observe the space you are currently using in terms of what is effective and what is not
- Use whatever resources you can, including peers
- Make a model of your classroom and explore the ways you can manipulate and change the environment and its layout
- Reorganize your room
- Observe again for changes in behaviour
- Adjust based on your observations
- Follow these steps as a continuous cycle in order to create a classroom that is responsive and dynamic
- How Comfortable Classrooms Lead to a Better Student Community by Room 241
- Colbert, Judith. (1997). Classroom Design and How It Influences Behavior. Early Childhood News. 9. Retrieved from Research Gate.