5 Ways Classroom Design Influences Student Behavior, Achievement

Color, furniture, lighting and other elements of a classroom’s layout are the bedrock for classroom management and fostering a sense of security that promotes student achievement.

5 Ways Classroom Design Influences Student Behavior, Achievement

(Photo: Seventyfour, Adobe Stock)

The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety magazine.


Have you ever walked into a classroom and it immediately felt stale and cold to you? What about a classroom that felt warm and inviting, one that you wanted to hang out in all day? What elements were different between the first classroom and the latter? Beyond initial comfort, how a learning environment is structured can significantly influence student growth, achievement, and sense of safety.

According to one study, classroom design — seating charts, lighting, furniture, classroom rules, and other elements — can account for as much as 25% of a student’s progress over the course of a school year. In a well-designed classroom, students are more likely to engage, make cooperative behavior choices, and focus on the task at hand.

Classroom design includes all classroom components that make up the learning environment. The following five elements can make the most contributions to supporting behavior management in a classroom, allowing teachers and students to thrive.

1. Color

Research shows that the visual stimulation of colors gives learners a sense of energy, boosts their mood, and helps them stay engaged. Educators can enhance students’ learning abilities and memory retention by designing classrooms with this in mind. Design and architecture firms are great sources for tips on choosing colors for learning environments.

2. Choice

We’ve all been there, sitting in an uncomfortable seat with our backs aching while someone gives a lecture at the front of the room. No matter who you are, no one wants to take in information all day while sitting uncomfortably.

When it comes to seating in a classroom, mix it up and let furniture choices complement the learning spaces. Research indicates that children who participate in short bouts of physical activity within the classroom are more focused and productive. Allowing students to change their seating choice increases their comfort level and gives them a chance to stretch and move, increasing blood flow and oxygen flow to the brain.

3. Complexity

The traditional classroom layout with rows of desks and neutral walls is orderly, however, it is far from stimulating. Balance is essential when it comes to classroom design. Adding novel surroundings and attention-grabbing décor such as wall displays or an accent wall can make a classroom seem more interesting, inviting, and fun.

4. Flexibility

Teachers are addressing learning gaps within their classrooms through a variety of instructional practices such as project-based learning or independent study. Learning spaces should be able to adapt to the needs of students and teachers — even when those needs differ from one day to the next. Furniture that can be rearranged to accommodate various activities keeps the learning space fluid.

5. Natural Light

When it comes to classroom lighting, quality and quantity are equally important. The ability to control the level of lighting is essential for avoiding eyestrain or unnecessary cognitive load from squinting at a page or screen. Additionally, findings show that exposure to bright blue light during the day boosts mood, concentration, and energy levels. This results in students’ improved behavior, attention spans, and outcomes.

Align Environments to Your Efforts

Maintaining a safe school environment that also promotes student engagement, productivity, and positive behaviors requires a critical eye to the design of that environment.

Design companies and furniture manufacturers serving the education sector provide expert insights into the ways elements like furniture, room layouts, lighting, and other aspects can impact students’ behavior and academic outcomes. That guidance will support educators to create a solid foundation for a learning environment that serves the good of the students – physically, psychologically, and academically.


AlGene P. Caraulia is the Vice President of Integration and Sustainability at Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI). Drawing upon his expertise in organizational behavior, program design, facilitation, and implementation, Caraulia has led CPI’s Training Department, Global Professional Managers and Instructors in North America, Europe and Asia.

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