University of Washington study: Classroom design affects student learning

11 Nov

Researchers are examining all aspects of student learning. Katie Lepi reported in the Edudemic article, How Does Classroom Design Affect Student Learning?

How Does Classroom Design Affect Student Learning?

  • Classroom design can improve students’ performance by about 25% Positive effects include:

  • Enhanced concentration

  • Helps support learning

  • Inspires students

  • Improves behavior

  • Better results

  • Reduce fidgeting

  • Increase attention span

  • Encourage healthy posture

  • Better communication between students and between teacher and students

  • Items to consider are:

  • Furniture

  • Layout

  • Color

  • Temperature

  • Acoustics

  • Lighting                                                                                                                                                    

A University of Washington study looked at the effect of design elements on student learning.

Science Daily reported in the article, Features of classroom design to maximize student achievement:

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:

  • Lighting: Students exposed to more natural light perform better than students who are not; however, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (2014), 16% of schools with permanent buildings and 28% of schools with portable facilities have unsatisfactory natural lighting.
  • Temperature: The optimal temperature range for learning is between 68 and 74 degrees F. Sixteen percent of schools with permanent buildings and 12% of schools with portable facilities have unsatisfactory heating.

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:

  • Classroom objects that depict achievement of groups traditionally disadvantaged in education (e.g. photographs of women scientists) can improve performance for these groups.
  • Classroom objects appealing to only some students (e.g. too many science fiction objects in a computer science classroom) prevent students who do not identify with those objects from enrolling in those courses.
  • “Token” symbols that represent a group (e.g. American Indian mascots) can cause students from those groups to express lower self-esteem.

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….”                                                       

See, Ditch tokens and increase light for optimal learning


Features of classroom design to maximize student achievement

Date:             November 4, 2014


Source:         SAGE Publications


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.

Designing Classrooms to Maximize Student Achievement

  1. Sapna Cheryan1
  2. Sianna A. Ziegler1
  3. Victoria C. Plaut2
  4. Andrew N. Meltzoff1

1.     1University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA 2.     2University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA

  1. Sapna Cheryan, University of Washington, Guthrie Hall 236, Box 351525, Seattle, WA 98195, USA. Email:


Improving student achievement is vital for our nation’s competitiveness. Scientific research shows how the physical classroom environment influences student achievement. Two findings are key: First, the building’s structural facilities profoundly influence learning. Inadequate lighting, noise, low air quality, and deficient heating in the classroom are significantly related to worse student achievement. Over half of U.S. schools have inadequate structural facilities, and students of color and lower income students are more likely to attend schools with inadequate structural facilities. Second, scientific studies reveal the unexpected importance of a classroom’s symbolic features, such as objects and wall décor, in influencing student learning and achievement in that environment. Symbols inform students whether they are valued learners and belong within the classroom, with far-reaching consequences for students’ educational choices and achievement. We outline policy implications of the scientific findings—noting relevant policy audiences—and specify critical features of classroom design that can improve student achievement, especially for the most vulnerable students.

This study is in accord with the 2013 DeZeen magazine report, Well-designed schools improve learning by 25 percent says new study:

News: well-designed classrooms can improve the academic performance of primary school pupils by 25 percent according to a new study undertaken by the University of Salford and UK architects Nightingale Associates.

The year-long study assessed seven schools in Blackpool, where researchers surveyed pupils about age, gender and performance in maths, reading and writing. They also evaluated classroom environments by measuring factors such as natural light, noise levels, temperature, air quality and classroom orientation, before comparing the two sets of data.

“It has long been known that various aspects of the built environment impact on people in buildings, but this is the first time a holistic assessment has been made that successfully links the overall impact directly to learning rates in schools,” said Peter Barrett, a professor at the University of Salford. “The impact identified is in fact greater than we imagined…”

Optimum learning requires a quality teacher, student motivation, and a good basic curriculum which can be enhanced by a well-designed environment.

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One Response to “University of Washington study: Classroom design affects student learning”

  1. Jessica A Bruno (waybeyondfedup) November 11, 2014 at 5:44 pm #

    Reblogged this on Jessica A Bruno (waybeyondfedup).

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