Education & Learning
How The Classroom Influences Student Grades
With summer about to end and school about to start, parents everywhere should hope that the educators and staff at their schools are up to date on research relating to classroom and educational facility design. Substantial data shows that the physical environment in which students are located does impact how well they are able to learn.
Significant adjustments to distributions of resources have been made to ensure that students are provided with necessities, such as breakfast that are not available at home, but that are needed for optimal learning. Many school systems have moved from individually designated school supplies to supplies that are pooled in order to not discriminate against students who are unable to provide quality supplies or resources for themselves.
Changes from individually served accommodations to group focused resourcing are increasingly common within school districts and exemplify the philosophical change from individual to group accomplishment.
The Environmental Impact of Learning
In addition to conditions that relate to the individual, conditions relating to environmental impacts on learning are coming to the forefront of educational and administrative attention.
The overall appearance of a school has effects on the attitudes of the people in the building. Architectural aesthetics, color schemes, and open schematics have all been examined in terms of their impacts on the occupants.
For example, research shows that welcoming entrances and common areas that foster a sense of community are advantageous to the overall environment of an educational facility. The day of the library cubby separating individual students so they are not able to communicate is long gone.
It is important to provide teachers “adult” spaces that allow them to momentarily shed their teacher-student interaction patterns and engage in teacher-teacher conversations.
These communal areas offer opportunities for interaction and cooperative learning, not the “shushed” study zones of the past. The emphasis in today’s learning environment includes incorporating friendly spaces where students want to be.
Researchers have also found that there is a correspondence between the environment and the drive of teachers to collaborate. When teachers are afforded environments where a spirit of collaboration is fostered, students naturally benefit.
Collaborating teachers equates to the spread of resources, innovative teaching styles, and an increased ability of staff to decompress, rejuvenate, and return to the classroom invigorated and excited about teaching. Particularly in elementary level educational facilities, it is important to provide teachers “adult” spaces that allow them to momentarily shed their teacher-student interaction patterns and engage in teacher-teacher conversations.
Another indicator of the potential success of students is the amount of attention teachers pay to their classroom layouts. Research shows that teachers who value the importance of the physical environment impact their classrooms in a positive direction. It is important for teachers to organize according to the learning abilities of their students.
Different classes benefit from either a territorial or a functional manner based on the flexibility of students. Territorial layouts allow the students to have individual desk ownership. Functional layouts are organized in work stations by specific activities. Another aspect of control that environmentally aware educators use relates to inattentive students.
Research has shown that less attentive students are best served by row arrangements rather than tables. Teachers who are able to remain flexible in terms of the classroom layout are most aptly able to meet the needs of their students.
There are other elements of the classroom environment that research shows to be critical to the success of students. Physical conditions in the classroom impact student attention and focus. Elements that are important include temperature, heating, and air quality.
Open Spaces – Is It Ideal?
Additionally, it is impossible to overemphasize the need for quiet spaces within educational settings. Dr. Steve Higgins, Director of Research for the School of Education, Durham University has connected chronic noise exposure to impairment in cognitive function including reading problems, deficiencies in pre-reading skills, and general cognitive deficits.
Other studies have indicated that different age groups and sexes respond differently to various color schemes, so while elementary schools may benefit from the use of primary colors, secondary and post-secondary schools may be better suited by more muted tones.
Another design element that has become a point of philosophical debate relates to open design architecture. Many educators believe that open design educational facilities allow students to tailor their educations to suit their personal needs.
Classrooms and school environments play an important role in the construction of students’ identities
These educators believe it is important to “tear down the walls” because traditional school environments no longer reflect the functioning of the world outside. Proponents of open plans believe that keeping school environments encapsulated does a disservice by not allowing students to develop the skills necessary to thrive later in an expansive adult world.
They believe that open designs produce a fluidity from team teaching that cannot be achieved when educational environments remain disjointed and cellular. Open classrooms create an environment in which students must look beyond personal likes and dislikes, commonalities and differences, in order to work toward collaborative project success.
In a sense, open designs make students forego a sense of individual self in the advancement of learning as a community.
Dr. Julia Ellis emphasizes the importance of the classroom’s effects on student social and emotional development. Her research supports the idea that classrooms and school environments play an important role in the construction of students’ identities. School and classroom environments that trust students to take responsibility for their own educations will help foster life-long learners.
This is critical to functioning in a society that is increasingly knowledge based and requires a continually re-educating in order to stay current within a technologically advancing world.
Finally, in addition to all of the research related to classroom and school facilities that foster higher academic success in students, there is a group of dedicated professionals who are responsible for the environment but go unresearched.
The importance of a strong custodial staff taking care of the health and happiness of our students is critical for academic achievement. The best custodians not only clean the halls and the bathrooms, but exemplify a caring respect for the environments within our institutions of learning. These custodians understand that their jobs are not strictly about muddy floors and spilled lunches.
They appreciate the connection between the environment and learning. The quality environment they maintain translates directly to the attitudes of the students they help foster.
So while the debates about open classrooms and color schemes continue, take the time to thank those who set the stage for students’ attitudes toward learning, the men and women who truly are the environmental custodians of our children’s educations.