Does the Student Environment Really Make a Difference?
Instinctively we know that the spaces we live and work in have an impact on how we feel and, in turn, may well affect our ability to perform the activities in which we are engaged. We spend time decorating and arranging our homes to build an optimal and attractive environment in which to live, however, there is significant a lag in applying this investment to traditional school layouts and designing optimal learning environments.
Setting the tone for engaged learners is crucial in all areas of the school campus and should extend to communal areas, science laboratories, design workshops, IT spaces and sports halls as well as classroom and library spaces.
The question isn’t if the design for education affects student learning, but how? Secondly, how can builders, designers, educators – and, yes, students – effectively collaborate to create exceptional learning environments. Ones that stimulate, engage and inspire students (and staff) to work more productively and creatively.
Place the student at the centre, says Innovation Specialist, Phillipe Galland. ‘Consider how these spaces can support student’s development of core skills and the teacher’s requirement to teach. Human-centric design is what WF Education is all about.’ We have developed a concept to assist in defining the requirements of a space – be that new-build or a refurbishment of an existing space.
Innovation Specialist, Phillipe Galland
Scientific Space Design
The often-quoted and impactful Nightingale Associates and University of Salford year-long ‘Clever Classrooms’ study found that ‘differences in the physical characteristics of classrooms explain 16% of the variation in learning progress over a year’ and that ‘the impact of moving an ‘average’ child from the least effective to the most effective space would be around 1.3 sub-levels, a big impact when pupils typically make 2 sub-levels progress a year.’ (Professor Peter Barrett, 2015)
Half a decade on, progress has undoubtedly been made. New build school spaces are lighter, brighter and more engaging.
Galland continues ‘It is not enough to add ‘flexible’ furniture into spaces and call it progress. We are talking about an ongoing evolution, not a revolution in learning space design. WF Education wishes to make the student and teacher the architect of their own space, not just as it is being designed but for years into the future.’
Exploring this concept lead to the development of the Everna™ range of furniture, which includes modern modular pieces, complimentary seating and writing surfaces. Designed to support the findings of accepted research and evolving teaching pedagogy, the range not only creates zoned flexible spaces but allows spaces to be reconfigured and updated long after the installers have left.
The modular range consists of a standard bay, with inserts to suit every permutation of a modern learning space, including standard shelving, reading dens, desking, display, acoustic panelling, scribble boards and storage options. With elements available in a range of contemporary colours and finishes – the only limit is your imagination.
Attention, behaviour and motivation are critical to successful learning. Flexible environments and zoning can provide a superior learning setting to a traditional library or classroom layout.
Having a teaching space with zoned areas and multiple uses and configurations can tap into these neuroscientific cues to create an optimal environment with a measurable influence on learning outcomes and behaviour.
Learning is an active and social process occurring as a result of observation and modelling. The brain can also learn vicariously by watching others, e.g. observational learning.
Designing a space that encourages collaboration and allows for both physical and cognitive collaboration encourages students of all ages to learn alongside and from each other.
Auditory distractions are difficult to suppress and can be damaging to maintaining attention and concentration. Creating quieter spaces, pods or dens for thinking, reading or even meditating can measurably improve concentration.
Research has shown that visual communication and the ability to explain and develop ideas through sketching/scribing facilitates learning because it strengthens the neural pathways to the brain, providing additional routes to enable recall from long term memory.
Scientists can know how we’ll behave because people are predictable, without being conscious of it. Up to 90% of what we do is unconscious: our brains automate our responses to relatively predictable events, based on prior experiences and the environment, to free up resources from new learning and problem-solving.
Humans are hardwired to respond to good design; investing in the creation of aesthetically pleasing and practical spaces will improve concentration and learning outcomes.
Comments Philippe, ‘The choice is yours, the level of modularity and flexibility is down to individual choices. The range offers infinite combinations. Your space is unique and the design best reflects the people that will spend time within in it but with the added possibility to adapt to changing needs and demands on the space change over time.’
WF’s adaptable and multi-use Everna™ range for libraries and learning spaces provides multiple options for investment in future-fit environments.