I've just been reading "Clever Classrooms", a report from the University of Salford. (PDF download) After studying 3,766 students and 153 classrooms in 27 primary schools across the United Kingdom, their researchers concluded that simple changes to classroom design can have a significant impact on a student's success.
The schools studied varied widely in size and building age, and the researchers looked at a classroom from each grade in as many schools as possible. The size and layout of each classroom was recorded, as were various environmental measures like temperature and humidity; each teacher also filled out a questionnaire about their classroom experience.
To measure student performance, researchers looked at the students' academic levels in reading, writing, and mathematics. By comparing the change in a student's level from the beginning of the year to the end, they found that variations classroom environment accounted for 16 percent of a student's progress over the course of a year.
The researchers looked at three factors in relation to the question "what makes a classroom "effective"? The factors found to be particularly influential are, in order of influence:
- Naturalness: light, temperature and air quality – accounting for half the learning impact
- Individualisation: ownership and flexibility – accounting for about a quarter
- Stimulation (appropriate level of): complexity and colour – again about a quarter.
Surprisingly, whole-school factors (eg size, navigation routes, specialist facilities, play facilities) do not seem to be anywhere near as important as the design of the individual classrooms. This point is reinforced by clear evidence that it is quite typical to have a mix of more and less effective classrooms in the same school. The message is that, first and foremost, each classroom has to be well designed.