Classroom designs for 21st century learning


Palak Tiwari Gaiekwad
Director, Little Kingdom Chain of Schools, Jabalpur and
Kangroo Kids International PreSchool, Gwalior & Billabong High School, Gwalior

The connection between classroom design and learning outcomes is more than simple conjecture. Research has revealed that factors such as the colour of the classroom, air quality, lighting and students’ sense of ownership of their classroom all affect the students’ ability to learn.

The layout and designs of the 21st century classrooms are related to the content, motivating and stimulating the child for learning and getting involved in a plethora of activities. Classroom designs have a huge impact on the child’s wellbeing. Wall displays are an integral part of any classroom, as they make the room appear more alluring and attractive, especially for earlier age groups. Informative wall displays brighten up the classroom atmosphere as compared to the plain drab white washed classrooms. However, we also need to strike a balance between the two; too many displays and decorations can be detrimental to learning and can distract the child.

Students spend the better part of their day in their schools, hence the classrooms should be warm and welcoming, inviting in such a way so as to boost the morale of each child. Additionally, classroom design can also facilitate the learning experiences of students with special needs. In the words of Greg Lennox, owner of RAL displays, ‘Classroom designs should not only foster learning, they should also reflect the teacher’s learning style.’

The classrooms of 21st century schools are following certain norms, which include:

  • Displays can be only for decoration: Such displays make the classrooms look brighter and inviting. This has a direct impact on pupil’s learning. 
  • Displays can be used to introduce new topics to be taught: The educators can display stimulating material to introduce a new topic to be taught. This technique can raise interest and curiosity among learners. 
  • Displays can be invigorating and refreshing: Wall displays can be some beautiful pictures and quotes to make the child interested in classroom teaching. 
  • Displays should include supplementary teaching aids that help to enrich or reinforce what is being taught: Teaching any topic or subject can become a whole lot exciting if picture boards and props are used accordingly. 
  • Displays can be a tool of powerful communication: Displays have a voice of their own and can communicate to other students, school staff, visitors, parents etc of what is being taught in the class. 
  • Display material can help students to memorize important facts and can act as a substitute for rote memorization: number tables, spellings and other important factual information, can be displayed which will help students to memorize by seeing the displays daily, rather than rote learning. 
  • Displays can be used to inculcate class management: They can include lists of routines, responsibilities, tasks, and rules. Such displays can make children more responsible towards their daily duties.

How classroom design affects learning

The connection between classroom design and learning outcomes is more than simple conjecture. Research has revealed that factors such as the colour of the classroom, air quality, lighting and students’ sense of ownership of their classroom all affect the students’ ability to learn. When desks are arranged into grouped configurations, improvement in learning by collaboration, active involvement, opportunity to engage etc. is observed.

Educators embracing new classroom design realize that the teacher-centered arrangement of desks and benches, isolates students and limits their learning—not to mention makes the teacher’s job more difficult. According to the Building and Environment study, good air quality and comfortable room temperatures improved student progress by 28%. Spacious classrooms with big windows which allow daylight to penetrate into the classroom can help the students to achieve 20% more progress in reading and math. Colour of the classroom also plays a very significant role in learning and achieving, warmer shades are for young students and cooler for older ones. The palette of colours in a school classroom is as varied as the colours of the spectrum. During the 50’s, 60’ and 70’s school’s painted the walls a pale green or creamy white and there was little variation in colour across the nation.

Colour is an integral part of our lives and visually affects how we perceive our environment. Colour affects our emotions and feelings and stimulates our moods either positively or negatively. Combination of colours in a classroom should complement each other. Colour environment should be stimulating for learning and not cause distraction. Glossy and gaudy walls can make note taking difficult. Colour meanings have long been studied for their effect on school children. Results have proven that lighter colours such as yellow and blue elicit positive feelings while darker colours such as deep blue, black or gray create negative emotions. The colour red has been known to cause anxiety in some children. Colours can also make a room seem smaller or larger.

Creative spaces

“Stuffing schools with high tech tools isn’t the answer to offering dynamic learning experiences,” said Danish Kurani and Zoe Balaconis in an article for EdSurge. New era smart boards also operate like white boards solving dual purpose. The presence of computers or tablets in the classroom is fairly common in developed countries. In the last few years, these devices have gained functionality and prominence in the classroom. These devices are particularly important in flipped classrooms where students watch videos and Powerpoint presentations and do assignments. Further, programs like Microsoft’s Skype in the Classroom offer a wide range of educational experiences.

Classrooms in the future will need new investments of both creativity and finance. The technology is entering the education industry at a rapid space, but, of course, finance is, and will be, a barrier to building these new classrooms.

Students across the planet need the best, most up to date, education to prepare themselves for the future. And the world needs the best prepared students to have a better future.

Palak TiwariPalak Tiwari Gaiekwad is NewAge Pedagogue and Parenting Proficient. She is Director of Little Kingdom Chain of Schools, Jabalpur. She is also Director, Kangroo Kids International Pre School, Gwalior & Billabong High School, Gwalior.