Does research support that classroom redesign will improve the learning environment?

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Jacksonville State University is currently involved in a Quality Enhancement Program (QEP). This program’s goal is, “to improve some aspect of student learning and development at JSU“(JSU.edu). The question becomes, “How do we improve?”. What changes can our university make to better the students’ education and enhance critical thinking? Currently there are eight available grants of up to ten thousand dollars to redesign classrooms in an effort to make a more welcoming environment for learning. The concept of classroom redesign has become very popular in the past few years among researchers. Their findings are quite interesting.

A study done by the University of Salford School of the Built Environment focused on “a 1 to 5 scale for 10 different design parameters: light, sound, temperature, air quality, choice, flexibility, connection, complexity, color, and texture” (fastcodedesign.com). After changing these perameters they discovered that, “Six of the design parameters–color, choice, complexity, flexibility, connection, and light–had a significant effect on learning. Light, as mentioned above, concerns the amount of natural light in the classroom and the quality of the electrical lights it contains. Choice has to do with the quality of the furniture in the classroom, as well as providing “interesting” and ergonomic tables and chairs for pupils. Complexity and color both have to do with providing an ample amount of visual stimulation for students in the classroom“(fastcodedesign.com). These are the same parameters that could possibly be positively altered through a grant at JSU. Princeton University has also done a study on this matter. They have found that,”By specifying common standards for the design and maintenance of learning spaces across Princeton’s historic campus, the university can equip teachers and students to engage in innovative and dynamic constructivist education.”(princeton.edu). These common standards that were researched are very similar to the ones studied by the University of Salford School of the Built Environment. Both studies had similar findings. They discovered that by changing things like lighting, you can greatly change the learning environment for the better. As stated by www.salford.ac.uk, “Current findings suggest that placing an average pupil in the least effective, rather than the most effective classroom environment could affect their learning progress by as much as the average improvement across one year”(salford.ac.uk). These two studies show that doing a classroom redesign could help JSU achieve the parameters of its QEP.

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These findings are echoed through the studies done by digitalcommons.calpoly.edu. They claim that, “Results from faculty and students indicated that the room’s flexibility 1) increased student engagement, 2) facilitated collaborative learning, 3) allowed for a variety of uses, and 4) enhanced the teaching / learning styles of participants. ” (digitalcommons.calpoly.edu).  This study did not focus on things such as lighting or the color of the wall, but on the flexibility of the furniture within the room. The manipulation of the furniture is especially important for classrooms that accommodate rooms used by different teachers in different ways depending on the specific lesson being taught. I believe that this correlates with the usage of classrooms at JSU. On any given day, a classroom could be used by several teachers who are teaching a variety of classes. Each teacher will also have its own creative way of conveying the course material and being able to manipulate the furniture to meet their needs will help invoke critical thinking by the students.

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In conclusion, changing certain parameters, such as lighting or furniture, can significantly change the student’s ability to learn. This change has been seen through several past studies. These studies all agree that the environment in which a student learns will greatly affect the enthusiasm of the students as well as the educators. These findings support that if JSU changed the classroom environment would directly correspond to the goals laid out in the QEP which would help the university keep its accreditation.

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