Does educational furniture improve student achievement?

Does educational furniture improve student achievement?

Given the physical nature of the built environment, it would be easy to assume that the visual qualities of spaces dominate our perception of a building or a space. And you’d be right.

Offices, that are designed around those who occupy them, help create a more productive workers. Thermal comfort, high quality views, daylight, good acoustics and even location and amenities all play a crucial role in creating a healthy, productive workplace. The same theory can and should be applied to the educational environment.

In many cases, classrooms are not set up to encourage movement, collaboration, personalization, or creation. And as such, classroom furniture is usually uniform following a one-size-fits-all mentality: instead of selecting furniture suited to a particular subject area and/or learning objectives, it is ordered in mass for every classroom. This might save money, but is it beneficial for the learning experiences of the students?

It could be argued that it is not. A few years back the peer-reviewed journal Planning for Higher Education talked about the “twelve factors of student-engagement”. In the study, students and faculty were asked to compare their experience in traditionally-furnished classrooms with an environment designed to provide more flexibility in learning. The results showed that classrooms designed for active learning - meaning where physical space supported the focus on engaging experiences for students and faculty - had a statistically significantly effect on student engagement (p<0.001).

The British Council for School Environments echoes this in their opinion. They believe that environmental factors have significant effects on pupil and teacher wellbeing. Poor quality lighting, ventilation, acoustics and most importantly, furniture all have a negative effect on student achievement and health. For example, poor ergonomic design of classroom chairs can affect concentration, handwriting and general well-being.

So, a high-functioning, engaging educational building is not just about bricks and mortar, it’s about the interiors too. And it’s not just about aesthetics – good furniture has been shown to have a positive effect on both student’s health and their classroom development.

Investing into inspiring furniture to secure inspiring results for students sounds like an easy way to take the classroom to the 21st century. Now is the time to make a change, if you haven’t already.

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