Beyond Warm, Bright, and Quiet

I’ve seen this study synopsis in a number of media locations over the last few days. Most recently in this morning’s Seattle Times:

Warm, bright, quiet: Students do best in well-designed classrooms

A brief search brought up a .pdf version of the complete study here: Designing Classrooms to Maximize Student Achievement  (Sapna Cheryan, Sianna A. Ziegler, Victoria C. Plaut, and Andrew N. Meltzoff)

Its conclusions are, of course, at their most basic level, welcome findings for those of us involved in designing learning environments – namely that the QUALITIES and CHARACTERISTICS of the environments in which learning takes place really DO matter.  What the study (and the studies this study cites…) terms “structural” and “symbolic” features were found to deeply affect how learning occurs, including such things as daylighting, acoustics, furniture arrangements, and “objects and decor”.

Reading the press releases and social media extracts from the study it would be easy to conclude that the authors are advocating for all students to sit in orderly “warm, bright, and quiet” classrooms (as the Seattle Times headline states).  The actual content of the study is much more developed and nuanced than this, and points out that a multitude of factors are “intertwined” in influencing student achievement.

That said, the study does seem to be limited in its discussion of learning environments, relying on fairly traditional definitions of what a classroom is.  The truth is that many educators and institutions have already moved well beyond these definitions, creating a variety of agile learning environments that are addressing many of the study’s notions in innovative ways well beyond the example’s cited.

Rush Elementary School (Lake Washington School District) includes shared learning areas outside of traditional classroom spaces.

Rush Elementary School (Lake Washington School District) includes innovative shared learning areas outside of traditional classroom spaces.

I’d encourage you all to read the study (not just the headlines) and offer your perspective on the qualities and characteristics of learning spaces you see having a positive affect on student’s lives.

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