Classroom design: a perspective


Sukhvinder Multani
Vice Principal, Radcliffe School, Dighi, Pune

The role of classroom design is significant. If not taken cognizance of this aspect, a classroom can result in stifling creativity of children or could fail to promote a positive learning environment as there are numerous things that can affect this environment both positively and negatively.

The success of a student in his entire school life depends on various factors. One significant factor which is often overlooked is the ‘classroom design.’ A large part of a child’s time is spent in a classroom, learning various skills, gaining knowledge, interacting with peer etc. This is a place where they not only begin aiming about their achievements in life but also dream about their future and make efforts to fulfil those dreams. With the classrooms being an important place in the growth of a child, it is important to understand the ways in which to positively affect this environment in order to receive maximum effectiveness in terms of instructions received by the educator. Every possible attempt must be made to ensure that the learning environment of students supports and helps them achieve in numerous ways.

The role of classroom design is significant in this regard. If not taken cognizance of this aspect, a classroom can result in stifling creativity of children or could fail to promote a positive learning environment as there are numerous things that can affect this environment both positively and negatively.

For instance, there are physical elements such as art on the wall, arrangement of desks, or other resources present in the classroom. Besides, there are intangible elements such as the energy of the classroom, the rules, the lights, or the sounds within the room. Each of these can impact a student’s interest, focus, response and finally achievement in the class. Besides, these factors can also affect a teacher’s attitude in the class. Finely weaved in each of these elements of the classroom is the emotional environment. The way in which a teacher organizes the classroom, provides instructions and makes attempt in imparting knowledge and skills for the students. It is therefore important for a teacher to understand this ‘cause and effect’ in order to understand how to organize their classroom and how to constructively design a classroom to create a better learning environment in actual sense.

With regard to classroom design, the normal requirement for many classrooms today is to have desks aligned in rows within the classroom. This system of arrangement leads to losing focus among students and also creates maximum disruptions in the classroom. This structure lacks in something as it does not encourage interaction between students and focuses more on the student as an individual trying to complete their own tasks and works. There is no room available for collaborative learning in any manner. Going by the adage, Aristotle had stated, “Man is a social animal” hence it is natural for human beings to interact with each other in a society. If such an interaction is absent in a classroom setting, the result will be, children will seek attention from their teacher. The following aspects need to be understood and considered while designing a classroom;

Too many structures in the classroom stifles creativity

There needs to be a fine balance in running a classroom in an organized manner. If there are too much structure set in place, it can stifle creativity, and if there is no structure at all, it can lead to distractions and lack of interest and focus. This may create challenges in teaching learning. Therefore, the teachers must understand to balance freedom and spontaneity with rules and guidelines. To achieve this, teachers can implement more engaging activities or lessons into the already established classroom structure.

Presence and utility of non physical environment

The second dynamic of a classroom that can impact a student’s learning is the presence and utility of non-physical environment. This consists of things such as sound, temperature, seating arrangements and others. These are elements of the classroom that a teacher cannot physically touch, but they can alter them to increase focus and classroom productivity.

Sensitive to children with special needs

Yet another aspect that needs highlight here is the fact that when thinking about classroom design and the disadvantages it could play, it is important for a teacher to take into account children with special needs. These students will need special accommodations in the classroom. In this regard, organizing desks in a circle creates a large space for students to move around if they need wheelchair access. Organizing them in groups can help students that have anxiety disorders by allowing them smaller communities in which they can interact, work and talk. Varying the assignments from worksheets to projects can allow students with ADD or ADHD to remain focused. Overall, creating separate activity centres within the class will allow all the students a space to get away if they need a break or a place to be in order to get refreshed and regain their thoughts.

Sound and light

With regard to sound, teachers must be mindful of this element in the classroom. Sound can play a very important role in seeking attention and success of a student. Things such as a noisy room or a student tapping their pencil repeatedly on the desk can greatly distract a student. There are ways to counter these kind of distractions though. Something as simple as closing the classroom door can benefit students. In case of preschool children, grouping students who prefer sitting quiet next to each other can increase their attention. Another strategy could be to turn on some music quietly for them to listen to while they work or carry out an activity. Not most schools have adopted this design. This could be a useful time for students who are musical to find soothing songs that promote concentration.

Along with sound, light can play a major role in determining whether or not a student is engaged in the lesson. The schools use fluorescent light bulbs. These create a buzzing that distracts as well as make it difficult for someone who prefers natural lighting. It is understandable that some classrooms do not have the ability to utilize natural lighting in the classroom. However, the use of lamps with softer lighting can create a warmer environment for students to focus. There is potential danger here though because it could lead to students becoming more sleepy and lazy, so teachers must look for this and make adjustments as needed. The teacher could also break their classroom into sections. The desks could use standard lighting, while the reading corner could use lamps. This allows students with different preferences to utilize the section of the classroom that they will be most productive in.

Seating arrangement

The final modification for a classroom that is utilized by many teachers is the student seating arrangement. This small adaptation can have large impact on the success and motivation of the students in a class. There are numerous different ways to organize the seating structure within the classroom. Pairing this skill along with the organization of how desks are arranged can greatly increase student focus and productivity. A teacher must be mindful of not only where in the room a student is seated, but also with whom they are seated. There are several ways to have seating arrangement done. For instance, a teacher can organize them by behavior, interests, cognitive abilities, or just randomly. One way to gain perspective on how to organize the students could be to allow them to sit where they would like to at the beginning of the attendance marking period. This will allow the teacher to gauge the instersts of the children and see which students like to work with each other in collaboration and how well they work with each other. Once the teacher has a fair understanding on this, the teacher can determine how they want to structure the class. If students are disruptive or unproductive the teacher could move that group closer to where the teacher is stationed or break that group up entirely and make a fresh seating arrangement. It is important to note the motivation of the members if broken up though. It may be better to let them sit together but be more closely monitored.

On a concluding note…

Overall, the classroom environment plays a crucial role in keeping students engaged and allowing them to be successful within the classroom. The teacher can modify the environment in intervals to achieve these results. There are numerous ways in which this could be achieved,such as:

1. Arrangement of the desks in different patterns.

2. Decorating the walls with different assignments or items.

3. Students can be used to help lead the classroom in the way that the teacher wants to.

4. Even with the lighting or the temperature of the room can increase the effectiveness of instruction in the classroom.

A good teacher is aware of these elements and the importance they play in student success. Without giving attention to the environment of a classroom the teacher may not be effectively imparting teaching learning.

Sukhvinder MultaniSukhvinder Multani is an educationist and Researcher with 21 years of rich experience in the domain of teaching and research. She has Masters and M.Phil in Political Science from Hyderabad Central University. She is a double gold medallist in post graduation and has worked as faculty member in reputed universities such as Icfai and Amity University. She has also been instrumental in editing and publishing books on diverse areas. Her books have gained national and international recognition. One of her edited books on “Managing Knowledge Workers – An HR Paradigm” was selected as a courseware for Icfai University MBA program. She also has the credit of attending national and international conferences.

Besides, she has also worked with Greenpeace India, the international NGO working on environmental conservation. For the last 7 years, she is associated with school education in various capacities. Currently she holds the position of Vice Principal, Radcliffe School, Dighi, Pune.

Her areas of interest include – defence and security studies, foreign policy studies, International relations, and Gender studies.