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  • Lisa Christie

Another new build education project begins!

Education design is incredibly exciting work for me! This is my newest education project and it's popping up out of the ground at last after many months of planning and specification! Find out more about the important work that goes into any education design project...


Albert Einstein — one of the leading intellectual luminaries of our time and an educator — once declared that he did not teach his students. “I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.” It took a few decades, but educational systems around the world are catching up to his philosophy. Interior design for the learning space now provides much more consideration for the student, providing the optimal setting not just for academic achievement, but social edification, as well.

Schools followed the “sage on the stage” model — that is, a classroom layout with a central platform where the teacher stands, and chairs that face it.

It’s simple enough, and it worked well enough. But as neuroscience helps us better understand how the brain functions and the best ways to learn, so do teaching methods and technologies evolve. So should the learning environment. 


The challenge now is to imagine “what a school could be, as opposed to what it has always been.”



Sometimes design professionals miss incorporating the students' ideas and opinions.

Typically, the first things designers do is they have to bid for jobs that they’re interested in or clients come to them. Either way they’re usually consulting with the client.

Often designers consult with administrative teams instead of students and teachers... I feel that its very important to consult with end users for any commercial project. Its important to dissect their school life needs and of course try to meet those preconceptions where practicable and where budget allows. The best result is always achieved by connecting with the end user. Without this process, there is a risk that you'll end up designing what adults think classroom design traditionally looks like. There is a real risk of missing the mark entirely.


Interior Design for Effective Learning Environments

To maximise learning potential, we should create a spaces that can become the catalyst for change. 

When you open the door to a space, does it give you permission to act differently other than to be behaviourally conditioned to ‘sit’ or ‘stand and deliver’? If the space doesn’t give permission to change, then it’s too easy to revert back to the old model. So what does an effective learning space look like? While there’s no single classroom design that works for all, there are a few basic principles to apply.


It has been proven that rooms with high ceilings stimulate “visuospatial exploration”; that is, they make people pay more attention. What does this have to do with learning? Emotional connections are crucial to the learning experience. So is paying attention. I believe that certain types of spaces are able to encourage both.

In contrast, some enclosed spaces are detrimental to learning (in a negative way) as they can increase cortisol, the stress hormone.

Of course, design is typically constricted by budget, so creative solutions may be necessary.


Comfortable Classroom Design

Time and again, it’s been proven that students need to feel comfortable in order to learn effectively. It’s just common sense.

The reality is, if you’re sitting in an uncomfortable chair, you are cold or you’re distracted by glare, you’re focusing on the source of the discomfort rather than the learning. The distraction is a stress, and if you’re stressed, you’re not learning. Comfort in a learning environment can be as simple as adequate lighting, proper acoustics, and well-regulated ambient temperature.


Nearness to Nature, and Lots of Natural, or Near-Natural Light

In the past, schools have struggled to find solutions to poor student performance. They experimented with different curricula, different teaching methods, new textbooks, better trained teachers, smaller classes, and more both in Australia and overseas.

An architecture firm in California, however, scrutinised a different element altogether: light. The question was, could the problem be partially solved by improved lighting?

The answer surprised them. In a rigorous study involving 21,000 students, it was found that those who studied in “classrooms with more natural light scored as much as 25 percent higher on standardised tests than other students in the same school district.”

It supported anecdotal evidence that architects had been citing all along: “Children learn better under illumination from skylights or windows, rather than bulbs.”

They were completely taken aback at the magnitude of these findings … It was an eye-opener.

The study did not explain why students in classrooms with more natural daylight performed better.

Classroom design that incorporated nature also had a vastly positive effect on learning outcomes. While countless studies have shown that office employees are more productive when they are near a natural element, students are no different.

Studies show that simply incorporating plants in the classroom layout improves the grades of middle school students, reduces sick leave in primary school students, and makes students and staff feel more comfortable and satisfied, no matter their age.


Zoning and Flexibility

In classrooms “I” and “we” spaces are equally important: the latter for collaborative effort and socialising, the former for focused work. Diversity in seating arrangements also helps people break out of ruts and get fresh perspective.


In a learning space, these different zones and the flexible seating are very important, and the reasons are not that different. Students are looking for open, fluid designs in the classroom. Instead of a static classroom filled with individual desks, designers should look for ways to create breakout spaces. Modern education design principles encourages arranging desks and tables to create nooks and designated spaces specified for different areas of study.

As well, desks, chairs, tables, whiteboards; virtually any piece of classroom furniture can and should have the ability to be moved around in order to adapt to the students’ needs.


Anyway, I think you all get the picture! ....you can see that a lot of deep thought and careful analysis goes into designing great education spaces. The objectives of the teachers and students can't always be met entirely because often the budget gets in the way but if you do the best you can with within the given parameters, the result will have huge benefits for the occupants. Designers really can make a difference in peoples lives!

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