Teach Middle East Magazine Jan-Feb 2018 Issue 3 Volume 5 - Page 35

Sharing Good Practice

A CONVERSATION WITH PROFESSOR PETER BARRETT

This covers a lot of opportunities from , for example , putting pupils ’ names on trays and their work on the walls , creating distinctive class-made displays , to the provision of ageappropriate , good quality furniture . These factors account for about a quarter of the 16 % impact .
Why are you able to advise on school design ?
I instigated and led the HEAD ( holistic evidence and design ) research project that in 2015 isolated , for the first time , the impact on learning progress of physical classroom features , all taken together – as they are really experienced . This was based on a large sample of UK primary schools and revealed that differences in these physical characteristics explained 16 % of the variation in learning progress over a year for the 3766 pupils in the study .
What can teachers do to create healthy environments and is this important ?
Yes , basic health factors are very important and explained half the 16 % impact on learning . Humans seek positive “ natural ” living conditions . Thus , teachers can be careful to actively ensure that the classroom environment is controlled so that the air is fresh ( changed regularly ), the temperature is comfortable ( remembering that children – especially boys – like it a little cooler than adults ) and noise levels are dampened by things like acoustic ceiling tiles , carpets , and soft furnishings . Artificial lighting should be well-maintained and be of high quality , but access to natural daylight is still important , given that it both provides light for vision , as well as , sets the body ’ s daily ( circadian ) rhythm . Of course , in many countries this means care should be taken to avoid glare and overheating , but external shading is effective for this . Blinds should not be lowered and then just kept down .
What other factors should teachers look out for ?
Driven by the fact that pupils are all individuals , teachers can optimise learning by providing a flexible range of learning zones to support different styles of engagement . For younger children this involves things like reading corners , wet areas , role-play spaces and table layouts that support individual , group and whole-class working . The other thing teachers can do is make the pupils feel a sense of pride and ownership in their classroom .
Should classrooms be decluttered to aid concentration ?
It depends where you are starting from ! Our results very clearly show that a mid-level of ambient visual stimulation is optimal for learning – driving another quarter of the 16 % impact . So , either extreme of very plain or very busy , can be thought of as boring or chaotic . The effect of the classroom is made up of a combination of its visual complexity ( linked strongly to the use of displays and banners ) and the colour scheme used . The latter should be generally calm with some highlights , such as a stronger colour on the teaching wall or a really vibrant colour in a small recess area . What matters in this context is the overall impact , which is quite easy to judge – once you know what you are looking for .
Do you have any more advice for teachers ?
Simply this – based on our results you can actively assess your classroom and change it in many small ways and it will enhance the learning of the pupils . It is better to try to improve a bit on a lot of fronts . You can think of the classroom as an instrument that you can play , rather than a simple container for the children . Lastly , every classroom is different , so each must be carefully assessed in its own right .
Where can we look for further information ?
Have a look at the Clever Classrooms report where the findings are illustrated with practical examples . This is freely available as a pdf at www . cleverclassroomsdesign . co . uk , along with a number of more technical papers .
Professor Barrett is Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Education at Oxford University . He is an international advisor to the OECD and the American Institute of Architects . Peter provides strategic advice on optimising the impact of school buildings on learning , eg to the Norwegian Education Directorate and the World Bank . Email : peter . x . barrett @ gmail . com ; Phone : + 44 ( 0 ) 7872 176655
Class Time | | Jan - Feb 2018 | 33
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