Classrooms or brain friendly learning spaces? 4

Jen Macauley’s amazing classroom. Originally uploaded by Edublogger
The US ETS (Educational Testing Service) site links to Brain Compatible Learning Environments, a pdf by Lee Burch. In the pdf he explores the implications of recent neurological research for classroom, or, rather, learning space, design.

Current research is also proving a connection between brain chemicals and how they relate to one’s success as a learner. For example, more or less serotonin, dopamine or other related compounds have an impact on attention, motivation and behavior. Neuroscience has begun to prove what we as designers have felt that learning environments are needed, not classrooms.

In particular he picks out some of the important considerations for those making displays:

Brain Space Principles
Create rich, stimulating environments with teaching architecture, colorful, tactile displays that are created by students (not the teacher) so that students have connection and ownership of the product.

Display symbols in corridors and public places that celebrate the school community’s larger purpose. These will provide coherency and meaning to increase learners motivation. (Warning: go beyond slogans.)

Change displays because changing the environment influences interaction with the environment and stimulates brain development. Provide display areas that allow for stage-type construction to push the envelope further with regard to environmental change.

About Linda Hartley

Hi, I enjoy helping teachers to make their classrooms into interesting visual learning environments. I write most of this site and I also run the Classroom Displays online course which you can find out more about in the sidebar.

4 thoughts on “Classrooms or brain friendly learning spaces?

  • diana

    Am a first grade teacher for three years now. My school has little space and no proper materials to make the classrooms childfriendly, I was just wondering if I can get some ideas to help me transform my classroom And maybe some pictures that will give me ideas. Most of the materials needed we cant afford. , some are hard to find. Please help!

  • EveT

    “However I’ve also had teachers who’ve said that the learning needs of the rest of the class should take precedence, simply because they are the majority. Not always comfortable thing for a parent of such a child to hear.”

    And actually a blatant case of disability discrimination!!! :-O

    Should the teacher judge that the learning needs of the majority take precedence over the minority? I’m sure the human rights brigade would have something to say on the issue 🙂

    I’m attending an interesting (I hope!) talk in September – I may come back to this issue then!

    Just Act ‘Normal’
    The impact of forced conformity on identification, alienation and chronic stress.

    When is it humane to teach those with sensory perceptual or language processing disorders to behave as though they don’t have these issues simply to conform or appear to achieve? What happens to information processing capacity when someone puts all their energy into conforming regardless? What happens if an information processing challenge is continually treated as though it’s a problem ‘learning’ the ‘right’ responses.

  • Linda Post author

    I understand what you mean Eve. If you view the Flickr set this photo is taken from you’ll see that there’s hardly any space in this classroom that’s doesn’t have some sort of stimulus. I think it’s hard to balance the differing needs of the children sometimes. Personalisation may have to also extend to the learning environment. It’s not just children with ASD who might find this an overwhelming rather than an exciting place to learn. However I’ve also had teachers who’ve said that the learning needs of the rest of the class should take precedence, simply because they are the majority. Not always comfortable thing for a parent of such a child to hear.
    How do we find a balance?
    A visually quiet area is one way. I’ve also used screens round a table. This works well because it can give the child the feeling of being within a smaller, safer, enclosed space. Does anyone have any other suggestions?

  • EveT

    Hmmm … guess you know what’s coming! How does such a vibrant classroom affect the sensort difficulties often associated with ASD’s? Sensory overload most probably 🙁

    There needs to also be an area relatively free of vibrancy for those whose disability causes them to struggle in this type of environment …

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