Planning your Learning Room – Back to Basics

by dontregartha May 3, 2017

If you are working in a new classroom, you may have shared learning principles and strategies with your school’s design team, and these are now reflected in the structure of the room, the furniture, and the resources in it. Perhaps the design schedule was tight so this wasn’t possible; you may be working in a room that doesn’t suit the needs of your pupils. Most likely, you are working in an older, out-of-date classroom and struggling to see through years of accumulated clutter to a more streamlined, positive environment.

Talking to teachers who have attempted to redesign their classrooms, it’s obvious they’ve done little more than shuffle everything around the room. Shelves are tidied up; a small book corner is created at the back of the room; new posters replace old; desks are rearranged. In some cases, this can help create a more effective classroom for learning. But to effect real transformation, the first step any teacher should take actually requires no physical action.

So what should a teacher do then, to create a Learning Room that will improve motivation, performance and wellbeing of their pupils? Well, first to consider is what learning outcomes you want your pupils to achieve. And remember to focus not just on content acquisition, but skills development too. If pupils are currently unsettled and constantly fidgeting, you may set a goal that they will be calm and focused in your lessons. Do they rely on you too much for guidance about how to complete a task? Then your goal may be to encourage their self-reliance and independence. You might do this by scaffolding tasks so that pupils feel a sense of achievement at each stage, and develop the confidence to tackle the next task alone.

In order to achieve these new behaviours in your pupils, you’ll already know that any learning activities need to be engaging and relevant, and also offer variety. Some tasks will be undertaken alone, others with a small group. Some will require listening, others making or doing.

But once you’ve pinned down your pupils’ learning outcomes, and the learning activities required to develop optimum skills and behaviours, you’re ready to consider how a refreshed classroom layout can support you in achieving your teaching and learning strategy.

Back to Basics – Key Steps

  • Visualise the ideal learning outcomes for your pupils. In what state are they when actively engaged in learning tasks? For example: loud, excitable, hesitant? Do the same for how pupils will ideally be at the end of the year, when they leave after twelve months in your classroom. For example: independent, calm, respectful. Use how they are currently as a benchmark for your learning outcomes.
  • Match your learning activities to your learning outcomes. Once you’ve made a list of behaviours and skills your pupils need to develop, you can develop learning activities to stimulate progression in each area. Remember, this will be a working progress. Just choose one or two learning outcomes to start with, and plan activities accordingly.