How a Child’s Classroom Environment Can Affect the Way They Learn
A child spends the majority of their day in a classroom setting, and their environment plays a large part in how they learn. Although curriculum, teachers, and technology have a great impact on how much information a student will absorb, the environment in which they do so is incredibly important to facilitate this process.
We all learn differently, and children are learning all of the time. Schools and universities over time have adapted their spaces to what best facilitates the needs of their students.
As we know, no two people learn the same way. Here we discuss how students with a variety of needs can benefit from different classroom types- and how general classrooms adapt to optimize the learning experience.
Best Types of Classrooms for Children with ADHD
Students who suffer from Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have difficulty learning the same way that other students do. It is not a learning disability or a crutch, but simply a different way that their minds work and process information.
Children typically develop ADHD before they enter school, but it is at school where teachers begin to see behavioral patterns that lead to their diagnosis. Typical symptoms include: fidgeting, trouble staying still, excessive talking, an inability to stay focused, and difficulty following directions or completing tasks.
The percentage of children estimated to have ADHD has changed over time and can vary. But a recent article from the A.D.D. Resource Center provides some interesting statistics:
- -6.4 million American children ages 4-17 have been diagnosed with ADHD
- males are almost 3x more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than females
- the average age to be diagnosed with ADHD is age 7
- ADHD is found in adults as well, affecting about 4% of all American adults
There are several ways to accommodate classrooms that will benefit the learning style of students with ADHD. The most common rule of thumb however, is to minimize distractions that may influence the student. Factors like desk placement, seating, and visuals can have a dramatic effect on a student’s learning environment. It is important to keep them entertained and interested in the material with graphs, charts, or images, but to not keep too many distracting elements on the walls that are in their line of sight, as this may preoccupy or distract them.
Desk placement is important because other students can distract a child with ADHD easily. Placing the student close to the teacher, or close to other students who are attentive and well-behaved, will give a student with ADHD a better chance of obtaining information and staying attentive. “If you have ADHD students, the plan should include a way to maximize their potential by using a good room design. The room should be organized, neat and clean so the students will see that when they walk into the room. It should be visually appealing and not distracting”. This image from The Journal on Best Teaching Practices (JoBTP) illustrates the best methods for desk placements if you have a mix of students both with and without ADHD.
Special Education Classrooms
Today, “special education” can cover a wide range of meanings. For some, special education may refer to a disability, whereas for others it may refer to students that are considered gifted or excelled. Here however, we will be referring to special education as students who have physical or learning disabilities, as they often require a special type of learning environment or atmosphere to facilitate their needs.
The most popular method to facilitate learning is the inclusion classroom, where students with disabilities are mixed in the general classrooms. There may be a second teacher or aid to assist these students, but they benefit from being around their other peers and not being excluded.
Navigate Life Texas, a resource for children with disabilities and special needs, suggests that additional classrooms can help special education students. In some cases, they will require a class that teaches certain life skills that other students do not require. Another class that may be beneficial for students with special needs would be social behavior skills (SBS). This can be referred to by different names in different districts. In this program, trained teachers can help students learn important social skills and decision-making skills. SBS is a separate classroom that students can partake in full-time or part-time, depending on their specific needs.
How Colors, Lighting, and Other Environmental Factors Affect Learning
Color has a strong effect on people. Blues, greens, and violets are associated with tranquility, and tend to set people at ease by providing a calming effect. With colors like red and yellow, it can cause people to feel a sense of hunger, which is why many restaurants choose these colors, such as the infamous McDonald’s golden arches. Not only can red induce hunger, but it can also increase a person’s heart rate by making them excited. Red is the warmest of the colors, and can be a good accent color but should be used in moderation as it can be overwhelming to children.
In many early-education classrooms, primary colors have been used for young children. It was thought that these colors would be appealing in the classroom. But in actuality, experience has shown that children are highly responsive and sensitive to both light and colors. According to an article from DesignShare, children are particularly attuned to colors in nature, but you rarely see these within a classroom setting. Primary colors can be quite harsh, and should be used sparingly as to not over-stimulate.
Although most classrooms are painted white or off-white, choosing different color schemes and lighting can benefit learning. Perhaps the most important type of lighting to facilitate learning is natural light.
According to DesignShare, “natural light is perhaps the single-most important element in the learning environment. Research shows that in day-lit classrooms, math scores improve by 20% and verbal scores by 22%”. In fact, an article from the Huffington Post shared a study on the correlation of natural light and academic performance. In this study, researchers in South Korea found that lighting can be optimized for a variety of activities, from test-taking, to recess, to reading. Not only can lighting affect student’s moods and productivity, but it can also affect both physical and mental well-being.
Size and Design of Classrooms
An interesting find suggests that students tend to focus more and achieve higher scores or graduation rates when they are a part of a smaller community, or tight-niche school. In research, “small” is defined as 150 students or less (DesignShare). A study by the Albuquerque Public Schools demonstrated that when student populations grew to 180 students, these positive effects were lost.
Now seeing as the majority of schools in this country accommodate more students than this, it can be beneficial to break students up into smaller classroom sizes or multiple buildings- like the layout of many college campuses. When students can identify with a learning community, or feel a sense of belonging, their performance and dedication improves. Students of all ages benefit from smaller classroom sizes, and more personalized relationships with their teachers or professors.
The traditional classroom layouts of rows of desks, and one-directional seating are becoming a thing of the past. Now, architects and teachers are realizing that there can be an advantage to creating different design patters for learning environments. “A mix of indoor and outdoor spaces, including quiet, reflective areas; messy, lab-like spaces; and social watering-hole spaces” are just a few options that can improve learning and interest in students.
How Modular Classrooms Can Benefit Your School
If your school is in the process of renovations, temporary modular buildings can be leased to provide classroom space for teachers and students. Temporary modular buildings can also be leased for a period of several years, or permanent modular construction can be an option for schools who want to have permanent space, but save on costs.
Already have a school or campus? No worries. Modular additions can be easily added to match your existing structure’s aesthetics.