With so much attention to curriculum and teaching skills to improve student achievement, it may come as a surprise that something as simple as how a classroom looks could actually make a difference in how students learn. A new analysis finds that the design and aesthetics of school buildings and classrooms has surprising power to impact student learning and success. The paper is published today in the inaugural issue of Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences (PIBBS).
Surveying the latest scientific research, Sapna Cheryan, Sianna Ziegler, Victoria Plaut, and Andrew Meltzoff outlined the current state of U.S. classroom design and developed a set of recommendations to facilitate student learning and success. Improvements to the structural environment could be especially beneficial for schools with students from lower income families. For example:
What a classroom looks like, including how it is decorated, can also make a difference in student achievement. Symbols in the classroom can inadvertently signal who is valued. For example:
The researchers wrote, "For students to learn to their full potential, the classroom environment must be of minimum structural quality and contain cues signaling that all students are valued learners."
These findings were adopted by the University of Washington Computer Science & Engineering department to communicate a broadly welcoming environment. They redesigned their building and computer lab by repainting and selecting appealing art pieces. Students and faculty reacted positively to the new environment as a place where a greater diversity of students feel welcome and can be successful.
The researchers concluded with the implications of this research for policymakers and school administrators:
"This research should be used in developing and implementing education policy for state-level boards, local school boards, school and program administrators, and teachers. Organizations that promote standards for certification and accreditation might encourage training on classroom environments. School administrators might provide venues for teachers to share information on school environments."
Materials provided by SAGE Publications. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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