Enhancing Instructional Environments to Promote Student Learning

Enhancing Instructional Environments to Promote Student Learning

by Alyssa Rountree & Madelyn Cox 


In a classroom, a teacher is trying to reach anywhere from 25-30 per class, depending on the grade. Each child brings their strength, weaknesses, learning abilities and uniqueness to the table. When a teacher is teaching a concept, they must keep all of these factors in mind. This research page focuses on how teachers can keep all of these factors in mind when creating the setting of their classroom. 


Flexible Seating 

"Flexible seating" is a buzz word that is used throughout the education world. This term can mean a variety of things; from beanbag chairs to couches or stools to exercise balls. What these different types of seating aim to do is reach students of all behavioral and cognitive abilites. This concept also ties in with the "living-room effect" idea, which creates a relaxing, comfortable learning environment as opposed to a uniform classroom setting. 

Flexible seating can reach students at every age, in every grade. Of course, certain flexible seating options for preschool may not work at a high school level but referring to the image above, couches, beanbags chairs, stools are geared more towards older grades and gives them the element of choice. Below are images of flexible seating options from a preschool class.



Cleanliness and Safety Issues 

A blog post from Concordia University Portland took on the topic of "Comfortable Classrooms" and made excellent points about dealing with cleanliness and safety issues with this new type of classroom setting. Including a lesson on safety procedures and cleanliness within the classroom is a MUST at the beginning of the school year. On top of this however, it is important to also "Never let your own work pile up and clutter your desk or any areas of the classroom. Clutter makes it that much harder to get through your lessons efficiently and always tidy up before you leave for the day. You’ll feel ready to go the next morning if your classroom is clean!" Keeping with the organization and the cleanliness of a classroom will ensure a stress free, comfortable environment. Students feed off of certain energy and a negative, cluttered energy inhibits growth in the classroom.


Visual Aids in the Classroom

While different seating options, work stations and quiet spots are important in a comfortable classroom, visual aids on the walls and throughout the room are equally important. Certain colors, images, etc. have been known to intice certain feelings of relaxtion and serenity in students. A stress free, anxiety free setting while also engaging students in their work is the goal. Displaying student achievements, work, awards shows student a level of care and attention from their teacher which can promote student engagement. Motivational posters, colorful displays and artwork are other examples of visual aids used to enhance student learning in the classroom. Below, are some examples of visual aids in different-aged classrooms. 

































Creating a Sense of Comfort and Community


Creating a sense of comfort and community in the classroom goes far beyond the physical appearance of the classroom, itself. When looking to enhance this sense, adding work stations that promote group work help students who thrive in group settings rather than working alone. Creating quiet spaces for students who need a distraction-free environment to focus help ease feelings of being overwhelmed.Students will spend 7+ hours a day within the walls of the schools so creating a space where they not only feel welcome and at ease but also can thrive in academically is key to reaching success within the classroom. 



Does enhancing student's learning environment really help?


 We asked teachers to respond to these five questions in an interview about their classroom environment. All teacher responded that enhancing their classroom around student comfort and flexiblity helped and improved all students and student learning.


1. Is there any differences in student learning after you implemented flexible seating in your classroom?


"Overall, flexible seating has improved focus and engagement in my classroom. Thus, student learning has improved since I’ve implemented flexible seating options."

"Yes, I can reach students on their academic level and differentiate tasks based on their abilities."


"After I implemented flexible seating students seemed to focus more and be happier while learning the content of a lesson I am teaching. I see no down side to being comfortable while you learn"



2. What methods or techniques have you used to enhance your instructional environment that you feel affected student learning?


"Providing the opportunity for flexible seating has affected student learning as it has promoted student comfort and engagement in the classroom.

"Small/whole group learning, math centers, task cards, etc."


"Flexible seating, centers, reading corners, and once a week students get to sit by a friend for the day."




3. What seating arrangement do you feel enhances student learning best?



  "I think intentional grouping enhances student learning best. Also, this provides the opportunity for students to collaborate and have discussions with each other which promotes student learning."


"Depends on the students. Mostly, groups works best for me but occasionally, behaviors force me to move to rows."
"I feel that students work best in groups and getting to choose who they sit by occasionally."


4. How does your classroom support students comfort and emotional needs?


"My classroom supports student comfort and emotional needs because it is a safe place where my students and I share a mutual respect for eachother. "


"Each day I spend time with each student in a small group. I have found that students are more likely to open up when they are in a small group."




"I have many different ways I support emotional needs, I am the type of teacher that gives myself time everyday to interact one on one with students. That way, if students are not receiving that support at home, they are getting it at school."



5. Do you feel positive visuals (posters, artwork, bulletin boards, etc.) enhance your classroom in a way that supports student learning?



"I think that students are more engaged and focused when they are happy at school. I think that the classroom environment (positive visuals, artwork, etc.) does impact how students feel about being at school. Therefore, student happiness correlates with student learning."





"Yes, students need to feel they are in a comfortable place when at school, therefore you should decorate it like you do your own home"


How can I provide this environment for students?

Giving students the opportunity to give input on how the classroom environment should be set up will not only create a sense of community and belonging but also, give students the freedom to have a choice that best suits their learning styles. The video linked below gives great information and tips on how to implement a flexible learning environment. 
















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