Classroom Design: Supporting a Vibrant Learning Environment

Jan Nedermeijer

Intentional classroom design is core to supporting a vibrant and effective learning environment. T.A. Travis.
“Learning theorists and researchers have come to understand that we don’t so much teach as we create an environment in which people can learn. Learning facilitators design experiences and activities allowing people to grasp new concepts, learn required knowledge, and gain needed skills.”[14] The foundational framework to the many facets of classroom design, supporting the greatest level of actual learning, is that schools must be student-centered; rather than teacher or even technology-centered.

Building on the framework of student-centered learning environments, trusted school leaders exercise the following 7 Disciplines of Classroom Design:

  1. Supporting and fostering healthy relational connections between students and teachers[15]
  2. Facilitating opportunities for frequent practice and active learning (i.e. students engaged in learning activities as opposed to passive instruction)[16]
  3. Supporting both project-based and problem-based learning, where students directly apply their learning to real life[17]
  4. Supporting self-regulated learning that recognizes students as individuals developing at varying paces[18]
  5. Encouraging and developing learning communities, where students support each other[19]
  6. Inviting and attractive entrance and exit areas, fluid circulation, lighting and color[20]
  7. Seating that is age appropriate and supports learning activities and engagement[21]

[14] Catherine Lombardozzi, Learning Environments by Design (Danvers, MA: ATD Press, 2015), 211-213, Kindle.

[15] Robert C. Pianta, Megan W. Stuhlman, and Bridget K. Hamre, “How schools can do better: fostering stronger connections between teachers and students,” New Directions for Youth Development 93, (2002): 91-107.

[16] Hannele Niemi, “Active learning—a cultural change needed in teacher education and schools,” Teaching and Teacher Education 18, no. 7 (2002): 763-780.

[17] Jane L. David, “Project-Based Learning,” Educational Leadership 65, no. 5 (2008): 80-82.

[18] Barry J. Zimmerman, “Self-Regulated Learning and Academic Achievement: An Overview,” Educational Psychologist 25, no. 1 (1990): 3-17.

[19] Vincent Tinto, “Learning better together: The impact of learning communities on student success,” Higher Education Monograph Series 1, (2003): 1-8.

[20] Caroline A. Guardino and Elizabeth Fullerton, “Changing behaviors by changing the classroom environment,” Teaching Exceptional Children 42, no. 6 (2010): 8-13.

[21] Rachel Wannarka and Kathy Ruhl, “Seating arrangements that promote positive academic and behavioral outcomes: A review of empirical research,” Support for Learning 23, no. 2 (2008): 89-93.