The Effect of Learning Environments on Behavior and Wellbeing
- March 5, 2021
- Anthony Bowie
Author: Dr. Christina Counts
Numerous studies show that physical spaces have a direct effect on mood and behavior (Uncapher, 2016). Factors such as comfort, security, serenity, and levels of distraction all have an impact on how spaces make us feel and how we act in these spaces.
In learning environments, the qualities of spaces not only have an effect on mood and behavior, but also on teachers’ ability to teach and students’ academic success. From the color palettes of learning environments to the furniture pieces selected to outfit different spaces, each feature of a learning space has an effect on the behavior and wellbeing of those who use it.
Schools are filled with many spaces, but these areas lack significance until they are given form and develop a function. With form and function, specific “places” are created with their own purposes and distinct qualities that support the use of these places. These places offer more than just being useful; they provide an environment that positively impacts how students and teachers act and feel––and learn.
For example, a traditional library is simply a room full of useful books and other learning resources, but adding a makerspace, comfortable reading nook, or quiet study rooms elevates a library space into an enriching and dynamic place. When the library becomes a place, students and teachers form attachments to the environment, which affects their emotions and behaviors and impacts academic success.
From the sounds to the colors to the design of the furniture pieces, the physical qualities of learning environments shape the energy and harmony of the space. Students and teachers who use these spaces are emotionally affected by these atmospheric qualities, making it crucial for learning environments to have physical features that align with positive wellbeing.
Here are some of the most important factors that impact wellbeing in learning environments:
Some educators believe students must be alert in order to be learning, but alertness doesn’t always align with positive wellbeing. When students are provided with a comfortable learning environment (“Keep Cool in Class: How To Create a Comfortable Classroom Environment For Learning”, 2019), they experience significant benefits to their emotional and academic wellbeing. This not only includes the comfortability of furniture in the room, but also how comfortably students can navigate the space––both physically and visually.
In line with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (McLeod, 2020), students cannot learn until their basic needs are met, and safety is one of the most critical of these needs. A space that feels secure and free from hazards allows students to relax and focus on their learning.
The serenity and ease of a space has a profound impact on students’ abilities to relax and engage with their learning. Serene spaces lack distractions including loud noises, excessive movement, and visual clutter. Spaces that offer ease are naturally designed to smoothly accomplish their function, demanding fewer decisions or manual actions from the user. Especially for students who have learning challenges or disabilities, serenity creates more mental space for focus, while ease enables independence and confidence.
Atmosphere is fundamental when it comes to the comfort and wellbeing a space offers, and different design qualities can make or break these environmental factors. Due to the impact that learning environments have on behavior and moods, it’s important for designers and school administrators alike to take the qualities of these spaces into account when creating spaces for learning.
Keep Cool in Class: How To Create a Comfortable Classroom Environment For Learning. (2019). Retrieved 5 February 2021, from https://www.thestablecompany.com/blog/comfort-in-the-classroom-how-to-create-the-perfect-environment-for-student-learning
McLeod, D. (2020). Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Retrieved 6 February 2021, from https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html#gsc.tab=0
Uncapher, M. (2016). The Science of Effective Learning Spaces. Retrieved 5 February 2021, from https://www.edutopia.org/article/science-of-effective-learning-spaces-melina-uncapher
Dr. Christina Counts, VP of Strategy and Development for MiEN Environments, is a proven leader with a successful background in transforming learning spaces to modern engaging learning environments. Dr. Counts has worked in education for over 17 years with experience as a classroom teacher, district instructional leader, school administrator, and digital and innovative learning designer. In her most recent position, Christina leads a team of professionals that support schools making the transition to a flexible, collaborative, & student-centered learning space. She holds a doctorate in K-12 Educational Leadership, National Board-certified, and Google & Apple certified. Dr. Counts envisions a learning space in which educators are empowered to transform education through design, technology and innovative instructional pedagogy to create learners ready for any future!