How classroom design can boost engagement

Creating a positive learning environment through innovative design has a significant impact on teaching, behaviour and sustainability

A positive learning environment can help encourage pupils to become more involved in their studies, potentially improving their understanding of the subject, academic progress and test results. Here we look at four ways that classroom design can help boost pupil engagement in the classroom.

Creating a positive emotional environment

It is important that students feel safe in their classroom and that their participation and attendance are valued. This positive emotional environment is not just created by an approachable teaching team; the physical surroundings can also have significant impact.

Bruce D Perry PhD stresses that a sense of safety created by the environment and surroundings is perhaps the most important factor when helping a pupil develop a lifelong love of learning in his article ‘Creating an Emotionally Safe Environment’ (

Combined teaching methods

The Learning Pyramid concept shows that many pupils benefit from experiencing a number of teaching methods throughout the curriculum. Combining both passive (lecture, reading, audio visual and demonstration) and participatory (discussion, practice and teaching) allows a greater percentage of pupils to thoroughly understand the subject being taught.

An intelligently designed classroom can help accommodate both types of learning without compromising the other. Melanie Laing from Innova Design explains: “It is vital that a classroom can switch from one learning discipline to another with minimal disruption – ensuring pupils do not get side-tracked or lose concentration.”

Clearer pupil and teacher dialogue

The design and layout of a classroom can be used to promote clearer lines of dialogue between pupils and teacher. In its simplest form, if a teacher can see all of their pupils and vice versa, there is reduced risk of attentions being turned elsewhere.

Additionally, it is important that students are able to work in a more collaborative way, by providing a flexible layout that allows for smaller group work.

Progressive environmental features

Room acoustics, temperature and orientation all have an effect on academic progress. A study by the University of Salford ( discovered that academic progress could be improved by as much as 25 percent over the period of one school year when pupils are subjected to positive leaning environments.

The study, carried out over 751 pupils in 34 different classrooms, determined that 73 percent of performance variation was directly attributable to the environmental factors of the classroom. Building classrooms with these beneficial environmental factors in mind could be the difference between an average performing class and pupils who excel.

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