How to Create a Workspace that Encourages Learning
Fri 08 June, 2018
Although it may seem innocuous, classroom design has a noticeable impact on students and their learning. Small changes can completely change a student’s experience and willingness to learn. In fact, these changes can even be present in the same classroom. In a 1977 article, psychologist, Robert Sommer, described the classroom as ‘a network of interconnected and varied micro-environments’. In some places, the classroom could be too cold and in others, it could be too warm. There could be glare from lights. Some may not be able to see the board. All of these factors vastly affect how a student will engage in a lesson.
To address this, Sommer encourages teachers to ask students directly about the classroom design. A simple check at the start of every lesson would allow students to feel as if they are being listened to, and could reveal any potential problems that might hinder engagement.
Beyond this, there are some more general things that can be done to try and improve the workspace. A paper published in Policy Insights from the Behavioural and Brain Sciences by Cheryan et al featured a number of notes regarding classroom design. It was found that students who were exposed to more natural light performed better than those who were not, while the best temperature for a classroom was between 20 and 23 degrees Celsius.
Whilst these are important in all lessons, British Council notes the four main layouts for tables, all of which are useful for different lessons. These are the horseshoe (a semi-circle or three-sided square shape), a circle, traditional rows, or nested tables (tables grouped together so students are in different groups, facing one another). The British Council describes the horseshoe as best for board work, or speaking activities, the circle best for games of group discussions, traditional rows best for conserving space, and nested tables best for small group work.>span class="Apple-converted-space">
It is important, then, to see classroom design as having fluid aspects, which can be changed depending on what suits a particular lesson plan. Whilst an unchanging and regular environment can encourage stability and ensure that students psychologically associate the space with the particular lesson, occasional changes can keep the lessons interesting and engaging. Crucially, as long as teachers listen to their students and stick to a few general rules, the classroom can become an engaging and encouraging workspace.
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