If there’s one thing all educators and academics worldwide would agree on, it’s this:
The conditions and environment in which pupils learn are just as important as the curriculum taught.
Historically, education has been seen as something that can be provided in almost any environment imaginable. Today, we are slowly but surely acknowledging that this simply isn’t the case. If you want pupils to gain maximum value from the educational experience, you need to think carefully about their surroundings.
This can be particularly important in countries like the United Kingdom, where most schools have been around for decades – if not longer. The classic classroom environment traditionally followed a very basic set of standards – four walls and a ceiling, with just enough space to manoeuvre and no superfluous extras.
Today, educators are demonstrating an awareness of how influential a school’s interior can be. If interior design can affect our moods, our behaviours and our thought processes, it simply makes sense to reconsider the typical school’s interior design.
As far as neuroscientists are concerned, that’s exactly what we should be doing.
Form Vs Function
Traditionally, classroom design has prioritised function over form. Just as long as the basic facilities have been provided by teachers to communicate the curriculum, nothing else mattered. These days, we know that our surroundings have a profound impact on everything we think, do and feel at the time.
In an educational environment, countless factors influence our capacity to assimilate information and benefit from it. Even if redesigning an entire facility from scratch simply isn’t an option, there’s much that can be done to create a more effective learning environment for pupils.
Examples of which include the following:
Focus on comfort and enjoyment
Imagine, as an adult, attending an important business meeting or conference. You enter the room, only to found it full of dilapidated equipment and archaic chairs that are borderline painful to sit on. All of the things constitute distractions, while at the same time giving you the impression you’re of no real importance to the event’s organisers. It’s the same with school pupils – if they’re uncomfortable and distracted, you can’t expect them to learn effectively. It’s not a case of ‘coddling’ kids – it’s simply a case of ensuring their teachers and their studies in general have their undivided attention.
Inspiration on all sides
It can also be useful to provide pupils with the kind of inspiration that motivates them to achieve bigger and better things. One way of doing so being to decorate school walls (in appropriate locations) with inspiring sports posters. Sport Photo Gallery has worked with countless schools across the UK on interior design projects, transforming the energy and appeal of the educational environment. Providing kids of all ages with a glimpse of what’s possible (if they apply themselves) is always a good idea.
The importance of natural lighting
A recent study carried out in the United States concluded that pupils who studied in classrooms with plenty of natural light performed up to 25% better than their counterparts. Science has demonstrated on countless occasions that human beings in general perform better in natural light, or when natural lighting conditions are recreated as accurately as possible. By contrast, poor lighting can have a catastrophic impact on our capacity to learn and perform in general. Nevertheless, research also suggests that lighting is one of the most commonly overlooked issues where a school’s interior design is concerned.
Careful consideration of colours
The psychology of colour selection should also be brought into the equation. Certain colours are known to motivate and inspire, while others can be more calming and relaxing. Selection of appropriate colours and colour combinations means taking into account the activities that take place in the area in question. Under no circumstances, however, should colours and colour combinations be chosen at random.
Involve pupils in the process
Last but not least, pupils almost always perform better in an environment they feel they have in some way contributed to. This is one of the reasons why it’s commonplace worldwide to hang pupils’ work on classroom walls, while giving them a say in the general interior design process. Even if it’s simply a case of dedicating a single wall to the more creative kids in the group, it’s a great way of creating a productive and enjoyable learning environment.