Continuing from our earlier post, we look at some of the other environmental factors that make schools and classrooms more appealing to students, influence pedagogy, and promote an enhanced learning setting. Apart from the natural factors, a few additional factors contribute to ameliorating the learning environment: flexibility, possession, connection, complexity, and colour.
The classroom shape, area, storage spaces for bags and other equipment, wall area, as well as learning zones for young pupils, all can be customised according to the students’ needs. For instance, older students find larger, more square-shaped classrooms to be effective; however, younger students – particularly in primary school – require different learning areas to disassociate themselves from one activity and move onto another. Wall areas are an excellent way to foster creativity and self-confidence in pupil through displaying their work. Barren walls further can be optimised to display informative posters that bring colour and life to classrooms.
Personalised space is essential for creating both mental and physical comfort; the developing physiology and the students’ freedom of movement ought not to be restricted, these, in turn, become significant factors in shaping their identity, individuality, and sense of self-worth. McMillan (1997) disputes that intimate and customised areas facilitate enhanced information absorption, memorisation, and recollection, for when they feel tethered to the classroom, children develop a sense of responsibility towards their environment. Younger children, especially, begin to feel connected as though to their own bedrooms at home. Displays of pupils’ work – projects, posters, constructions, et cetera – encourage participation in learning, as do child-centric furniture and equipment.
Moving on to the areas outside the classroom, the pathways connecting various areas of a school – corridors, if you will – need to be free of clutter and simple to navigate. Circulation in corridors can be helped by the corridor width: too narrow and it hinders movement, too wide and space is wasted. Additionally, moving around the school, or orientation, is facilitated by large imagery, landmarks, and spaces filled with sunlight. A dark corridor does not help cultivate a mental connection with a school but one filled with both bright light and imagery avoids the institutional perception.
Returning to the classroom, visual complexity, in the form of diverse, interestingly bizarre, or uncharacteristic displays, stimulates the mind and arouses interest in other topics. Striking a right balance between little and too much complexity is essential as too much makes for distracting classrooms, while too barren a room is not mentally stimulating. For instance, having hanging lights, varying ceiling heights, and some displays is beneficial; covering the wall area entirely is chaotic and will have a negative impact on pupil attention spans.
Colour undoubtedly enhances our quality of perception, but for children especially young, bright and vibrant colours are preferable to creating a positive environment. Colour effects emotion and mood, with some improving learning and working performance, others influencing behaviour and producing positive or negative perceptions regarding the space. Again, finding a balance is essential: brighter walls, with a mixture of white and pale yellow, often create the optimal learning environment that does not distract or seem imperious. Additionally, variations in furniture colour and window curtains or blinds that complement each other produce stimulating classrooms.
For creating an optimal school environment, teachers need to pay attention to all these factors, particularly with younger pupils that are most influenced by colour, visual complexity, and a sense of ownership. Developing such classrooms requires a good understanding of pedagogy and child psychology, two essential topics educators learn during their teacher training courses.
McMillan, D., 1997. Classroom Spaces & Learning Places: How to Arrange Your Room for Maximum Learning. Charthage, Illinois: Teaching & Learning Company, Lorenz Corporation.