Changing classroom layouts impacts students' academic, emotional outcomes
- Using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs, Erin Werra, who writes about teaching practices and educational technology, explains in eSchoolNews how to build a learning environment that fosters student motivation.
- Starting from the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid, Werra wrote that students' physical needs, including having the proper light and acoustics and being compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, need to be met first.
- School culture is also key — from educators modeling empathy to helping students feel they belong — among crucial building blocks to motivating students to learn, she said.
Building an appropriate learning environment is crucial to maximizing the learning experience. Just the physical layout of a classroom can augment how students take in information and participate. Flexible seating arrangements — where students can actually change where they sit — are preferred by students, according to the Yale Center for Teaching and Learning. "In particular, students have been shown to be more partial towards classrooms with mobile versus fixed chairs, and trapezoidal tables with chairs on casters as opposed to rectangular tables with immobile chairs,” wrote the authors.
If administrators can’t provide elements like rolling chairs — understandable considering school budgets — moving classrooms outdoors at times can also augment lessons, breaking up what could be a rote experience into something that sparks learning.
A 2017 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that outdoor education programs "can promote students in respect of social, academic, physical and psychological dimensions.” It's important, therefore, for curriculum leaders to also work with school designers and the facility staff to discuss how shifting the learning environment can impact not only academic outcomes for students, but social-emotional ones as well.