Motivation through Learning Spaces

In her article for eSchool News Transforming learning with physical spaces, Laura Devaney looked at several physical learning spaces which are being designed to complement the technical innovations in education and learning (see: physical Classroom Management). Physical environments have a large impact on student learning, research says which points to the increased student achievement and engagement resulting from redesigning learning spaces to be more flexible and collaborative.

Furniture design company Bretford embarked on a two-year study with California’s Hillbrook School and HERO, Inc., a research and consulting firm. The study focused on how physical environments impact learning. The school replaced an outdated computer lab with a custom learning space called the Idea Laboratory, or iLab, and researchers gathered data that reveals how an agile learning space positively impacts teaching and learning.

Identical educational activities and projects in traditional learning spaces within the school were also measured as a point of comparison with the iLab. Data included onsite observations, student feedback, teacher evaluations, photos, and videos all were used to compile data. Activities were replicated in traditional learning spaces to compare to activities in the iLab.

Key findings include marked behavioral differences in the iLab–students and teachers are more engaged and interact more with one another inside a flexible environment. “The energy in the iLab is greater than in my classroom – I believe it is because of the movement,” said Christina Pak, a seventh and eighth grade history teacher and Hillbrook School, in a statement about the research. “Kids need both structure and change. The iLab has helped them think more about how the physical learning environment can spark students’ interest and help them think beyond.” (

Classroom engagement is at the core of student success. Ask any adult to name their favorite teacher and receive the profile of a person who inspired learning and became a legend in the mind of their students. But how can we teach someone to be engaging? Well, we need to give them the ideas and tools that allow engagement to occur by creating super-transparent classrooms that highlight exciting and authentic teacher and student work. Suddenly you will have a class of students on the edge of their seats (and out of their seats), willing to learn anything, and excited about what they will create next. There’s a new way of teaching that is taking all the 21st century elements that people talk about, and is putting them into action. Video recording, Web 2.0, online publishing and interactive curriculum are the wave of the future—and the method of teaching that will bring our teachers, students and classrooms there is called FIZZ. FIZZ will be an ongoing service offered and managed by the Friday Institute. (see: Personalized/Blended-based eLearning)

In another eSchool News article, How 3 schools are reimagining learning spaces, Devaney looked at the way several schools’ configured their learning environments. Springs Studio for Academic Excellence is featured for creative use of space and its combination of online, blended and project-based learning. The school purchased a single-story warehouse building and turned it into a modular setting that teachers and students can easily reconfigure for large- and small-group needs, along with an art studio, science labs, and areas for independent study. More than 80 percent of students re-enroll for the next year, and almost every grade level has outperformed state averages in English Language Arts, according to the school.

“When you’re comfortable, there’s something to be said for that,” said Jodi Fletcher, Springs Studio for Academic Excellence principal. “The environment does lend itself really well to kids wanting to succeed. It lends itself to building relationships, and that’s what is innovative, relevant and personalized. We’re building relationships with students who are here for a reason.”

 Bend-La Pine Schools’ Summit High School is featured for its transformation from a traditional school into an innovative blended learning program by implementing small, but impactful changes. Educators are encouraged to reconfigure their spaces to offer areas for larger flex labs and smaller spaces for small group instruction. Students have the choice of working on in-class instruction or using online courses, which has improved students’ interest in the topic being covered and given them time management skills they may not have gained otherwise.

In his article “3 Unused Teaching Tools: The Furniture, Floors, and Walls: Change your classroom environment and you can change your students’ behavior Ben Johnson (2016) said:

One of my mentors often said, “You can’t change people, but you can change their environment, and that will make the change happen.” This saying can also apply in the classroom. You can change the environment to promote a desired behavior. Some of the least used tools a teacher has to create optimal learning environments are the furniture, floors, and walls in the classroom. Taking these three underused teaching resources into account will help teachers to better engage the bodies and minds of their students. Effective use of the furniture, floors, and walls will further motivate students to learn through active participation and high engagement.