Learning Spaces Design

A learning space refers to a physical setting for a learning environment, a place in which teaching and learning occur. At your school you may find many different learning spaces, maybe you don't recognize them or you don't understand them as that. A great example of that is could be the school Patio or field. It is common to see students working with their mobile devices, sitting on the floor, or on the grass at these places.
And what about classrooms? The concept of Classrooms as physical Unities is disappearing, they are turning into flexible spaces where many different activities take place, the integration of  technology helps teachers to better engage students and facilitate the mix of individual, small-group and whole-class learning that is now viewed as essential to student success. 

The purpose of the space
Classrooms can be divided into smaller spaces. Sometimes students are asked to perform different activities at the same time. A group of students can be looking for information in their personal devices, another group could be discussing  a particular topic. That is why, first of all, you have to think about the purpose of those spaces. In the same classroom you can have a Space for Collaboration (share, talk to their partners), a Space for creation (Audio, video, green screen), a Space for showcase or Space for quiet (so kids can have some refuge, to read or record). Once you know what are those spaces for, you are able to understand their characteristics and requirements.

Teacher - Student
In the new models and pedagogical tendencies, the center of the learning process is no longer the teacher itself, it is the student, a spatial distribution that directs the desks towards the board and towards the teacher loses meaning. Now the teacher is the one who moves and walks through the classroom, with the help of mobile devices. If the tendency is to work more and more in groups, it is unthinkable that most of the available tables remain individual.  
Walk on students shoes.  Sit on students’ desks, Sit on the floor. Stand in a different corner of the space, walk around the classroom. All of these things will help you to see your learning space from a fresh perspective. 
Design solutions with students. Ask them about potential additions to the classroom. Try to find out what is distracting and taking them away from learning.

Technology
Nowadays mobile devices are being used all over the world and BYOD is a growing trend in the educational world. Students can share their essays, homework and information in a faster and easier way. 
But how this affects the learning spaces?
As I mentioned before, now teachers can walk through the classroom with a mobile device. They can cast their screen using a casting device, such as chromecast or an appleTV. Also students can cast their screens.
New technology is being released every day, projectors and TVs have better resolution than years ago, soundbars provide good quality sound, so there is no need to stay close to the device.
Online lessons and classes have become much more popular, computer-based tests have become the norm and so on.

Furniture
Think about the available positions in the room for students to learn. Positions can be easily created with cushions and pillows as well as standing desks. 
The chairs with wheels can facilitate the change of position, the modular desks allow different setups, students can move them to work in pairs or in groups, big tables promote collaborative work, stand structures contribute to public presentations, etc. Any type of furniture must take into account the increasing use of technology in the classroom.
This provides students more options and ownership in the classroom, and this leads to less anxiety, more comfort and greater academic growth for many students. 

Classroom furniture can be a high-impact tool that literally puts students in the right learning posture. A modern learning environment requires a flexible and dynamic physical setup that will accommodate both individual and group work, and one where students can learn in ways that make them feel comfortable and help them focus.

Learning Interference
Studies show that uncomfortable classrooms cause discomfort and mood changes, which contributes to increased stress and fatigue in students, as well as decreasing their cognitive abilities.

Noise:
A quiet and comfortable space will allow students to focus and listen better.
Acoustic discomfort can play against the learning process, interfering with students attention and making communication between teachers and students inefficient.
There are 3 kinds of noises 

  • External Noises (vehicles, hallway, Playground). There is not too much you can do to avoid this kind of noises. This should have been done by the architect or constructor at the moment of projecting and building. It depends on the wall thickness, type of glass, etc.
  • Internal Sounds (Teacher Speech, students voices). There is a phenomenon called reverberation caused by the reflection of the sound on hard materials that causes the sound to remain in the room. This can make the message not being understand due to sound overlapping. There are different types of materials that can reduce these noises by absorbing the sound, these are soft materials like wool and fabrics. You can apply them in the classroom in different shapes acoustic panels, carpets, bean bags and curtains.
  • Noises from equipment (AC, fans and Computers). There is not much you can do about it, but you can always call maintenance or technology department to try to solve the problem.

Visual Noise
So many things get put on the walls of classrooms that create visual noise. Make an honest assessment about whether the items on your walls are positively impacting learning. Take time to slow down and examine closely your space. Look at the walls. Does all of the items on the wall support learning? Is anything causing a distraction? Get in the habit of removing items that no longer support the learning, so that you can intentionally optimize the space. One way to avoid this issue is to have expiration dates for everything that goes on the wall. Anytime you start teaching a new topic remove from the wall old stuff. When things remain in the wall for so much time they can become overwhelming or invisible. 

It is no decoration. Rooms may look pretty, well decorated, but can be distracting.

Develop a Color Palette
Research continues to emerge that an intentional color palette enhances learning. 
Too many spaces abuse on the use of color, they look like a rainbow represented in the rugs, furniture, and items on the wall. 

Natural Light
It has been demonstrated that Natural light properly controlled and located has a measurably positive impact on student academic performance and behavior. If not properly controlled and located, it can interfere with abilities to read, view demonstration materials, or cause physical discomfort. An example of this can be the reflection of the sun on the TV or screen. There are some control methods that can be applied to solve this issue, like fixed or adjustable window coverings, exterior sunshades, interior light shelves, or dimmable "Smart glass".
 
Lighting
For those learning spaces that don't have access to adequate natural light, artificial light is required to support effective learning. Fluorescent bulbs are shown to increase feelings of anxiety and headaches. Lighting is essential for visual tasks and helps maintain attention levels. Warm light is suitable for relaxing and recess, while cold light supports students’ performance during intensive academic activities

Views

Theories that views out of windows cause distractions were one of the prime motivations for the windowless classroom of the 1960s and 70s. More recent studies have demonstrated that views of nature potentially improve health and well-being and that more stimulating environments foster improvements in learning and retention. Ophthalmologists also highlight the importance of distant views to help relax the eye engaged in close work, such as on a video or computer monitor.


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  • Matt Hines on

    Really interesting, there are so many thing I was not having in mind while furnishing and designing the spaces of my classroom. I would definitely follow some of these recommendations.


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