Space exploration

Creating stimulating learning environments has never been more important and can help solve behaviour problems

A new study claims the levels of indiscipline in schools is being “seriously underestimated” because of the pressure to satisfy inspectors and keep expulsion rates down. The report, carried out by the University of East Anglia, said “nearly all schools” had a problem with unruly pupils, and warned that misbehaviour was not limited to the inner-cities. Prof Terry Haydn, who led the research, said schools faced problems attempting to balance the need to keep expulsions down while creating a “climate which is ideally conducive to learning” for all other pupils.

It’s widely accepted that people have different learning styles, so creating a learning environment that engages all students and motivates each to do their best is a major challenge. Classroom layout plays a pivotal role in how students learn, concentrate and behave. Classrooms should facilitate student engagement, collaboration and connection with the teacher.

“Classroom design has a major influence on student behaviour,” explains Melanie Laing, managing director of Innova Design Solutions. “It’s not just the teacher who creates the mood in a classroom; the teaching space also has a direct influence on students’ behaviour. Things like clear lines of sight, clutter-free work surfaces, and good circulation areas all have a positive effect on behaviour.

“We recently completed a new-build project which focused on providing interiors that work for both staff and students. The school has since reported a dramatic improvement, not just in academic performance, but also standards of behaviour. Because the students are more engaged and inspired, their levels of concentration and behaviour have improved significantly.”

Here are Innova’s five top design tips for improving classroom behaviour: 

1) Space
How well space is utilised is crucial to how successful a classroom is as a working area. As well as meeting regulations governing the number of users in a particular area, a classroom must provide good circulation for interaction and collaborative teaching. A crowded, cluttered space does nothing for ease of movement, communication or concentration. Different subjects demand different furniture to provide optimum results. Catering for specific activities is important in the layout of any classroom so that the right space and facilities are provided for the required mix of practical and theory work. Learning spaces should be flexible to support one-to-one tuition, independent study and group work.

2) Sense of ownership
Involving the end-users in the design process can be beneficial. By listening to teachers and students and really understanding their needs, you will create a space that works on a practical level as well as inspiring and motivating students to learn. School councils are a great way to encourage student involvement.

3) Ergonomics
Choosing the right furniture, which is designed to encourage good habits such as a healthy posture, has become more important than ever. Students who sit in uncomfortable desks and chairs are more likely to let their attention span wander.

4) Atmosphere
Studies have shown that increases in classroom diversity lead to increases in interest and will encourage maximum absorption of the subject. A positive learning space can be achieved by combining colour with hard and soft surfaces, which can animate a classroom environment and generate a high level of student engagement. Colour has an impact on attention span, with the right scheme creating a stimulating and exciting space.

5) Effective storage solutions
Space to store books and equipment is crucial. Storage is essential for ease of access to lesson materials and ensuring equipment can be stored safely. Effective storage also reduces the number of distractions, enabling students to fully engage with the lesson. More schools are using teacher walls, designed to maximise storage space and provide a focus to the room whilst allowing the rest of the space to be flexible.


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