5 Ways Classroom Design Influences Student Behavior and Achievement

The color, furnishings, lighting, and other elements of a classroom layout are the foundation of classroom management and foster a sense of safety that promotes student success.

The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety magazine.


Have you ever walked into a classroom and immediately felt stale and cold? How about a warm and welcoming classroom, a room you want to spend the whole day in? What elements differed between the first class and the second? Beyond initial comfort, the way a learning environment is structured can significantly influence student growth, achievement, and feelings of safety.

According to one study, classroom design – seating plan, lighting, furniture, classroom rules and other elements – can account for up to 25% of a student’s progress over the course of a school year. In a well-designed classroom, students are more likely to engage, make cooperative behavior choices, and focus on the task at hand.

Classroom design includes all of the classroom components that make up the learning environment. The following five elements can do the most to support behavior management in a classroom, allowing teachers and students to thrive.

1. Color

Research shows that the visual stimulation of colors makes learners feel energized, improves their mood, and helps them stay engaged. Educators can improve students’ learning abilities and memory retention by designing classrooms with this in mind. Design and architecture firms are great sources for advice on choosing colors for learning environments.

2. Choice

We’ve all been there, sitting in an uncomfortable seat with an aching back while someone is giving a lecture at the front of the room. No matter who you are, no one wants to take in information all day while sitting uncomfortably.

When it comes to seating in a classroom, mix it up and let furniture choices complement learning spaces. Research indicates that children who participate in short periods of physical activity in the classroom are more focused and productive. Allowing students to change their seat choice increases their comfort level and gives them the opportunity to stretch and move, which increases blood flow and oxygen flow to the brain.

3. Complexity

The traditional classroom layout with rows of desks and neutral walls is orderly, however, it’s far from stimulating. Balance is key when it comes to classroom design. Adding a new environment and eye-catching decor, such as wall displays or an accent wall, can make a classroom more interesting, inviting, and fun.

4. Flexibility

Teachers fill learning gaps in their classrooms through a variety of instructional practices such as project-based learning or independent study. Learning spaces must be able to adapt to the needs of students and teachers, even when those needs differ from day to day. Furniture that can be rearranged to accommodate various activities keeps the learning space flowing.

5. Natural light

When it comes to classroom lighting, quality and quantity are equally important. The ability to control the level of illumination is key to avoiding eye strain or unnecessary cognitive load from squinting at a page or screen. Additionally, the results show that exposure to bright blue light during the day boosts mood, focus, and energy levels. This results in improved behavior, attention span and student achievement.

Align environments with your efforts

Maintaining a safe school environment that also promotes student engagement, productivity, and positive behaviors requires a critical look at the design of that environment.

Design firms and furniture manufacturers serving the education sector provide expert insight into how elements such as furniture, room layouts, lighting and other aspects may have impact on student behavior and academic performance. These tips will help educators create a solid foundation for a learning environment that serves the good of students – physically, psychologically, and academically.


AlGene P. Caraulia is vice president of integration and sustainability at the Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI). Leveraging her expertise in organizational behavior, program design, facilitation and implementation, Caraulia has led CPI’s training department, global professional managers and instructors in North America, Europe and Asia.

About Gertrude H. Kerr

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