By synthesizing this research, we’ve come up with a list of six critical factors in designing game-changing learning environments that lead to better student outcomes.
Student agency is at the heart of deeper engagement: When students have a say in how they learn, they become more invested in their education. Toward this end, learning spaces should be designed to give students plenty of choices in where and how they will do their work, with a variety of seating options, tools, and materials.
Learning spaces should be designed with flexibility in mind. They should be able to support a wide range of teaching methods, learning activities, and student needs.
There will be times when the teacher will want to deliver whole-group instruction to the entire class; in these cases, seating should be arranged so that every student has a clear line of sight to the projector screen, flat-panel display, or other materials at the front of the classroom. At other times, students will be engaged in small group activities or individual learning.
Learning spaces can be designed to support multiple learning styles and activities through the use of learning zones and/or moveable furniture that can easily be arranged into different configurations.
Students learn most effectively when they are comfortable. Learning spaces should be designed so that environmental factors such as lighting, temperature, and air quality are at optimum levels for learning. In addition, desks, tables, and chairs should be ergonomically designed to provide maximum comfort.
Because some students are particularly sensitive to certain types of materials, offering a variety of seating options with different fabrics and surface types ensures that students have somewhere to sit that will be comfortable for them.
Learning is primarily a social activity, and students want positive interactions with their teacher and their peers. Learning spaces should be designed to support these connections, with clear walkways for students and the teacher to move around the room—as well as opportunities for students to learn in flexible groupings as applicable.
Learning spaces should be designed in a way that is stimulating and engaging for students, without being overwhelming. The design should include creative elements and materials that encourage thinking and exploration, but the space should not be too cluttered. Walls should be painted in light colors, with brighter colors used as accents in drapes and furnishings.
Learning spaces should be designed in a way that supports the use of age-appropriate technology, with enough devices for students to use or share as needed. There should be a large-screen display at the front of the room for whole-class instruction, and a growing number of classrooms and libraries also contain smaller, interactive displays for students to use in collaborative group work. What’s more, there should be enough power outlets and ports for students to charge their devices as needed.
Of course, the most important factor of all in transforming outcomes is the instruction that students receive. But the design of the learning space plays a huge role in facilitating—or discouraging—the kind of high-quality teaching that leads to powerful learning experiences for students.
Find more information about creating highly effective learning spaces that lead to deeper learning.
Christina Counts, PhD
Dr. Christina Counts is a proven leader with a successful background in transforming learning spaces. Dr. Counts has worked in education for over 17 years with experience as a classroom teacher, district instructional leader, school administrator, and digital and innovative learning designer. As the Director of Design and Development for School Specialty, Christina leads a team of professionals that not only offer complete turnkey modernization solutions for schools, but also design and deliver professional development to support districts making the transition to a flexible, collaborative, student-centered learning space.
Read more by Dr. Christina Counts–>