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Importance of classroom design

Thoughtfully designed classrooms that include flexible configurations, visual stimulation, and natural light are shown to increase both student performance and teacher retention. Expert construction means furniture that lasts, better student performance, higher teacher retention, and fewer replacements costs. Good design is smart investment.

Environment affects outcomes

In a pilot study by the University of Salford and architects, Nightingale Associates, it was found that the classroom environment can affect a child’s academic progress over a year by as much as 25%. The aim of this study was to explore if there is any evidence for demonstrable impacts of school building design on the learning rates of pupils in primary schools.

Hypotheses as to positive impacts on learning were developed for 10 design parameters within a neuroscience framework of three design principles. These were tested using data collected on 751 pupils from 34 varied classrooms in seven different schools in the UK. The multi-level model developed explained 51% of the variability in the learning improvements of the pupils, over the course of a year. However, within this a high level of explanation (73%) was identified at the “class” level, linked entirely to six built environment design parameters, namely: colour, choice, connection, complexity, flexibility and light.

Impactful design

The model was used to predict the impact of the six design parameters on pupil’s learning progression. Comparing the “worst” and “best” classrooms in the sample, these factors alone were found to have an impact that equates to the typical progress of a pupil over one year. It was also possible to estimate the proportionate impact of these built environment factors on learning progression, in the context of all influences together. This scaled at a 25% contribution on average.

This clear evidence of the significant impact of the built environment on pupils’ learning progression highlights the importance of this aspect for policy makers, designers and users. The wide range of factors involved in this holistic approach still leaves a significant design challenge.

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