Brain Compatible Classrooms and Schools: Considering the Physical Learning Environment and its Impact on Education

By: Ryan Wlodek, Ph.D.

The physical learning environment impacts how students feel, hear, and see, all of which have ramifications on student learning.  Key environmental conditions to consider in a learning environment include student seating and classroom temperature. 

Seating can impact cognition and stress level because it may contribute to musculoskeletal issues.  In addition to the physical implications of seating, stress can also be generated based on seating position and other related variables such as access to the teacher and materials, lighting conditions, temperature and noise. 

The design of chairs can have an effect on musculoskeletal issues.  Seating arrangements can also enhance or hinder student learning depending on instructional needs.  Seating and physical arrangement of classrooms can also be designed to encourage pro-social behaviors.  This may include collaborative zones and quiet zones so that students can engage in varied learning activities. 

Temperature and ventilation also have an impact on student learning because the brain is sensitive to temperature fluctuations.  Temperature can impact cognition and learning by influencing levels of neurotransmitters which may lead to emotional and behavioral issues.  Typically, classroom temperatures on the cooler side have a more relaxing affect compared to warmer temperatures.  This does not include extreme cold or hot temperatures.

Educators can promote brain-based learning environments and improve student learning by designing and adjusting schools and classrooms so they physically support and create optimal learning conditions.  Seats need to be of high quality so they do not contribute to musculoskeletal issues.  Seating arrangements should be flexible so they meet the needs of individual learners.  Classrooms should not be too cluttered and have multipurpose use in mind.  They need to support physical movement, discussions, direct instruction, reflection, activities, etc.  Temperature as well as air flow should be adjustable in learning environments.

Copyright © 2020 By Ryan M. Wlodek All Rights Reserved.

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