Learning Environments

8 Ways to Break the Inertia of Classroom Design

July 10, 2017 Updated July 4, 2017

It isn’t too early to start thinking about how to break the inertia surrounding setting up your classroom for the fall. Too many classrooms will only make superficial change in a time when the learning space needs of our students need to match the modern learning that we desire. Use these summer months to plot a new strategy before the calendar consumes your creativity and commitment to refreshing your learning space design. 

1. Focus on design, not decorating. Classrooms aren’t Pinterest laboratories. They require thoughtful design that meet the learning needs of students. Adding Pinterest decorations to the classroom can actually negatively impact learning through a lack of design coherence and distraction by decoration. 

2. Leave space for student voice. All of us want a learning space that looks ready to go on day one, but it is important that the unique community of students that will grow in this space throughout the year contribute to growing the design of the classroom. 

3. Maximize the writeable spaces. Pay close attention to how much of the writeable spaces in the classroom are accessible to students. Is there furniture blocking these spaces? Are there adult notes written in places that students could use to construct ideas? Are there lots of portable writing surfaces available?

4. Control the visuals. Each day a student enters the classroom, they visualize process the entire room for similarities and differences. If the classroom is overly rich with visuals, then students can be mentally fatigued before they begin the learning for the day. 

5. Have a space for quiet. The world is a noisy place for today’s student. This includes screen noise and life stress. It is important that we can hold space in our classrooms for the moments of quiet that our students need. This space will keep students from leaving the classroom to get the quiet that they need. 

6. Let students keep the space. In many classrooms, there are way too many square feet in the room that are no-go zones for students. Get a sense of the square footage that is reserved for the teacher, and then look for ways to minimize this space. 

7. Save the horizontal spaces. Horizontal spaces in classrooms attract and collect stuff, but these are essential spaces for students to collaborate. The desk surface is rarely a place for good collaboration, so make sure that the horizontal spaces don’t get consumed with piles and stacks. 

8. Think about light, color, and sound. Most teachers can’t control all of these aspects of their classroom, but it is essential to have an awareness about the realities in these spaces. Are there noises that exist daily that could impact learning? How does the light change as the day progresses? Can you develop a more consistent color palette that supports as opposed to distracts?  Learning space design continues to be about bringing the research to practice, so that all students have a health habitat to grow their learning habits.

This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we’ve preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own.

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