In 2015 The University of Salford published its ‘Clever Classrooms’ report which outlined that primary school classroom layout and design is directly related to an increase pupil progress. The report reveals how differences in the physical characteristics of classrooms, such as air quality, colour and light, can together increase the learning progress of primary school pupils by as much as 16% in a single year.
Over the course of three years and collecting statistics from 3766 children across 153 classrooms the report has produced significant findings. It shows that the impact of moving an ‘average’ child from the ‘least effective’ to the ‘most effective’ classroom can increase the ‘average child’s’ performance by as much as 1.3 sub-levels of the national curriculum in a single year. This is highly important as the Department for Education states that primary school pupils are expected to progress by 2 sub-levels in a single year.
The ‘Clever Classrooms’ report is seen as clear, real-life evidence of the effect on learning progress that the overall design of the learning space has can have on student progress. Individual factors including air quality have been rigorously studied in the past, but how individual factors come together as a whole for real children in real spaces has been difficult to prove.
Factors such as the amount of natural light, air flow and bright vivid colours have all been researched individually and are thought to positively affect progress and learning amongst primary school students.
Wall displays, for example, can be more than merely decorative in a classroom as they can make the classroom environment more interesting and stimulating for students. Display materials used in classrooms can be used to introduce a new area of study for students, reinforce and reiterate previous topic matter or could include supplementary teaching aids that can enrich learning and help to bring a subject to life. This can have a direct impact on student motivation and ultimately increase learning progress.
The ‘Clever Classrooms’ study, however, considered a wide range of sensory factors and used statistical modelling techniques to isolate the effects of classroom design from the influences of other factors, such as the pupils themselves and their teachers. Surprisingly, the research found that whole-school factors, such as navigation routes within a school and specialist play facilities are not significant compared with the design of the individual classrooms.
It may be significant, then, when designing and creating effective learning spaces to place more consideration on the aesthetics and functionality of each individual classroom rather than thinking of a school building as a sole entity.
Although school buildings must be designed considering vital health and safety regulations, such as the ease of evacuating students and staff in the event of a fire, it seems that also considering each classroom as a unique learning space with the potential to enhance and intensify a specific aspect of the curriculum would be an asset to any school. Schools could not only boast an increase in student progress but happier, more engaged and more confident children.