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Tuesday, 25 June, 2002, 10:26 GMT 11:26 UK
Building design shapes learning
Classroom
Classrooms need to be more flexible and better designed
The design of school buildings can affect children's behaviour and greater attention should be paid to how classrooms look and feel, says a study.


Stimulating environments can ... act as a powerful motivator

Helen Clark, study author

And the study's author says the benefits of features such as using more natural light, well-planned spaces and the use of calming colours are too often overlooked.

"Physical features such as light, space, furnishings and equipment can make people feel valued - or not," says Helen Clark, whose research has been published by London University's Institute of Education.

"This affects their behaviour and attitudes and can significantly enhance or impede the learning process.

"Creating stimulating environments can raise the expectations of parents and teachers and act as a powerful motivator in bringing about positive change."

And she says that for too long school buildings have not been constructed with enough attention to the needs of the users.

Modern schools should allow for "adaptability and flexibility", she says, getting away from the idea that all classrooms need to be the same size.

Light works

Natural light can help learning, but this also needs to be balanced with blinds that allow the use of computer screens and whiteboards.

There should be adequate circulation around a school - with corridors wide enough to prevent overcrowding and with good visibility lines for supervision.

Heating is also important, she says, and this needs to be flexible and not a single system that gets switched on in the autumn and turned off in the spring.

In terms of the use of colour, she says that neutral colours have a calming influence - and in primary schools it should not always be assumed that children want primary colours.

While television home improvement shows have made people more aware of the design of their own homes, she says that there is still much too little attention to the overall design of schools.

"Future research must adopt a more holistic approach to examining the factors responsible for student achievement, including the physical environment," she says.

Building Education, by Helen Clark, is published by the Institute of Education, priced 7.95

See also:

25 Nov 98 | UK Education
17 Dec 98 | UK Education
17 May 00 | UK Education
17 May 00 | UK Education
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