Despite curriculums, teaching standards and technologies changing immeasurably over the past 150 years, many of our schools’ classrooms still follow the same layout and design principles as Victorian-era schoolrooms.
A recent study by the University of Salford revealed that a student’s academic progress could be affected by classroom design by as much as 25 per cent over one school year. A positive learning environment can improve progress and grades by a quarter in many students. By investigating 751 students across 34 different classroom environments, the study determined that 73 per cent of student progress variation could be attributed directly to a building’s environmental factors.
The study measured the effect of design and environmental features as well as the facilities and amenities available to students. Profiling age, gender and performance level in maths, reading and writing at the beginning and end of an academic year, the research revealed almost unanimous above-average improvement in positive environments.
Natural light, temperature, acoustics, colour schemes, layout and furnishings have all been found to have significant effect on the academic progress of students. Schools throughout Scandinavia, for example, are eschewing the traditional features of classroom designs, implementing progressive features to provide more effective and efficient learning environments for their students. Starting from an early age, the Vittra Telefonplan school for pre-school children in Hägersten, Sweden has removed classroom borders, allowing groups of children to utilise all of the facilities and functions of the school. Creating a less inhibiting environment, the school allows children to express themselves and feel comfortable within the classroom.
Similarly, the Ørestad Gymnasium in Copenhagen, Denmark has removed the walls from classrooms, allowing students to draw inspiration from neighbouring classes. The large, open-plan school benefits from improved acoustics and access to high levels of natural light.
Many children could benefit from investment in classroom design. With increasing competition for budget allocation, it is more important than ever for schools and academies to invest wisely in both the short-term and long-term progress of their students.