Change your classroom and watch students shine

by Robert Ballantyne27 Feb 2015

Australian schools should heed the findings of a recent UK report showing how well-designed classrooms can improve student progress, experts say.
The Clever Classrooms report, released last week by the University of Salford in the UK, revealed that well-designed classrooms were shown to boost primary school students’ academic progress by 16%.
Given the similar curriculum and learning environments that Australia and the UK share, principals here might find the veracity of the report’s findings reflected in our own classrooms.
Gabrielle Leigh, president of the Victorian Principals Association, said that while the quality of teaching is important in the learning process of students, a well-designed classroom can be effective in students’ learning outcomes.
“A bright and well-designed environment sets the scene for optimum learning opportunities,” Leigh told The Educator.
“Many primary teachers spend considerable time creating an inviting classroom environment which encourages students to feel welcome and safe.”
The transformation of the traditional learning environment has caused a shift in schools’ approach to student learning outcomes, with an increasing focus being put on classroom layout and design.
Leigh said that classrooms need to reflect this shifting landscape.
“Since the focus on learning has shifted from individuals in desks to groups of students learning and working together, it is obvious that the environment needs to reflect this new understanding.
“The new design of many new schools prepares students for cooperative work,” Leigh explained.
Factors such as natural light, temperature, air quality, colour and individualised classroom design as amongst the biggest physical contributors to students’ learning progress.
Professor Barrett, who led the Salford University’s research team, told the BBC that it’s only natural students respond well to “good natural conditions”.

"Humans are essentially animals, and their brains respond well to good natural conditions," Barrett said.

Leigh said that Australia’s leaders should ensure “optimum learning conditions” by providing adequate funding for schools across all states and territories.
“State and Territory Governments need to allocate a considerable amount of money across Australia to government schools to ensure the classroom environments are conducive to optimum learning conditions,” Leigh said.
“It is important for our future.”

HAVE YOUR SAY: Are primary schools doing enough to make their classrooms optimum learning spaces?