5 Tips for Active Learning Classroom Design 

Discussions around education and learning often comprise of varying opinions,  but experts are finding some common ground in the area of active learning. 

Active learning is all about engagement at a personal level, and research demonstrates that displaying learners’ achievements promotes involvement in learning. Memory and comprehension is enhanced when learners produce their own ideas, as opposed to simply absorbing the ideas of teachers and resources. In this article, British Gypsum share their views on how to design classrooms that promote active learning. 

1. Display areas 

Display areas support active learning through what’s known as ‘retrieval practice’. This involves learners viewing and recalling information at regular intervals, and has been shown to be more effective than studying information once, or drawing conceptual diagrams relating to the information.  

Well-placed displays encourage learners to view information frequently, and this can be combined with teaching that incorporates recall activity to reap the benefits of retrieval practice. This also allows learners to integrate new information from lessons into what they have previously learned, as building cognitive links between new and old knowledge is an important part of active learning. 

2. Fluid spaces 

For younger learners such as primary school pupils, creativity can be encouraged through varied, fluid spaces. Spaces with moderate complexity have been found to support cooperative behaviour in young children, and these can be created through partitions, as well as walls with unusual features such as curves

Using innovative solutions like magnetic plaster, idea generation can be reinforced through displaying learners’ work on classroom walls without the bother of adhesive materials. This method brings a whole host of benefits -  including when the content is displayed on classroom walls, learners have an explicit and visual way of referring back to previous lessons.

3. Flipped classrooms

As well as giving learners more freedom, unusual or broken up classroom layouts allow teachers to allocate areas 5 Tips for Active Learning Classroom Design to different types of activity; while there might be an area for more traditional learning, with learners’ desks facing a board at the front, there could also be play areas and art areas, where learners can learn by doing.

With adult learners, flexible classrooms mean different parts of the same space could be used for teacher-led lectures, group discussion and small scale collaboration, where teachers use a ‘flipped classroom’ to facilitate learner activity.

4. Acoustics 

A reduction in psychological and physiological stress through reduced noise levels has a profound effect on active learning. Within the flipped classroom, where 20 learners could be speaking at once while collaborating within small groups, it’s important to limit sound reverberation, and this can be achieved through acoustic ceiling tiles. The better the acoustics, the better the communication between individuals which will improve social interaction and learning. 

5. Break-out areas 

Enabling pupils to get truly involved with their learning often means letting them work in their own space, such as a breakout room. Together, variety and choice breed creativity, which is key to any active learning environment. In addition, a sense of ownership of the classroom has been shown to increase feelings of responsibility for learning.