Arianne Noorestani: Classroom environments affect students’ success

Next time you find yourself drifting off during a class, don’t necessarily blame the professor, the coursework or the four hours of sleep you got last night – it might just be the classroom that’s putting you to sleep. Students often overlook just how important classrooms’ environments are.

Students will have an easier time learning if they are in comfortable spaces. Students naturally desire atmospheres that encourage them to engage in classroom activities, according to a study conducted by the Ministry of Education in New Zealand. With an environment conducive to learning, students are more likely to participate and communicate during class. Unfortunately, some of the classrooms on campus don’t encourage healthy and successful learning.

The basement classrooms in Lisner and Phillips halls are not productive learning environments. Although renovations are planned, the current state of these buildings is far from anything that would foster positive learning. These classrooms are often windowless with bare walls and chipping paint featuring flickering bright fluorescent lights. Desks in the rooms are cramped and paired with uncomfortable chairs that creak at the slightest touch. For most students, including myself, waking up at 8 a.m. to head to a geology lab session in this kind of room doesn’t inspire them to engage in the material.

The University cannot update every classroom to be the perfect learning environment. It would be costly and would leave our buildings under constant construction, if they did. But officials should do what they can to encourage active learning in existing spaces by adding posters, keeping classrooms organized, arranging desks into tables to facilitate discussion and making technology easily accessible.

For most college students, attending hour-long lectures is already boring. The rigor of the course load, combined with having to take notes from PowerPoint slides, can keep sleep-deprived students from engaging with course material. But that doesn’t have to be the case. If the physical layout of a workspace is put together properly, the environment will promote active learning. Officials and faculty could increase students’ success just by rearranging furniture or brightening up a space.

Even the way seats are laid out in a classroom can have an effect on learning. In rows, students are forced to face the back of their fellow classmates’ heads and are less likely to get to know their classmates. In contrast, students are more deeply engaged in classroom conversations when the seats are arranged in a circle formation because they can make eye contact with fellow students and have personal conversations.

Officials need to take the initiative to improve the learning environments on campus. They must comprehend how large of a role a school’s physical space plays in students’ educations. Professors and officials must understand that some classrooms are hindering students’ learning experiences and find small or big ways to improve them.

Once people are fully aware of learning environments’ significance, students would find themselves looking forward to class more often.

Arianne Noorestani, a freshman majoring in environmental studies, is a Hatchet opinions writer. Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.

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