Classroom Design Quiz: Are You Up on the Research?

Last week, Rethinking Classroom Design: Create Student-Centered Learning Spaces for 6-12th Graders, was published. To highlight some of the research on classroom environments that Blake Wiggs and I reviewed while developing the book, we've created a quiz! Does florescent lighting hurt learning? What temperatures start to impair academic achievement? What kind of student doesn't like to sit in a circle? Test your answers against ours...

17 Questions on Classroom Design

​1. Do florescent lights negatively impact learning? 

Answer: Not that we know of...Dozens of studies since the 1940s show inconclusive results. But if kids complain, that's reason enough to change your lighting.

​2. Why is the brain less efficient in a noisy classroom?

Answer: Noise releases excess cortisol (a steroid hormone) which impairs the prefrontal cortex's ability to store short-term memories.

3. What is the highest temperature a classroom can have before interfering with learning? 

Answer: 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Classrooms hotter than this temperature are distracting. 

4. What is the lowest temperature a classroom can have before interfering with learning?

Answer: 72 Degrees Fahrenheit.

5. This question is more subjective: What is the biggest mistake teachers make when setting up their rooms for the first time? 

Answer: Arranging desks and chairs without considering how much space the students themselves will take up. 

6. Other than the desk configuration and students, what are the biggest classroom space hogs? 

Answer: Oversized furniture (couches and La-Z-Boy chairs), oddly shaped tables (get rid of that Arthurian oak table), and carpets. Also try and keep storage items out of the classroom.

7. Instead of book shelves, attach r______ g_______s to the wall.

Answer: Cheap vinyl rain gutters

8. What are the three most commonly used seating configurations? 

Answer: The row-and-column model, the island model, and the horseshoe/double horseshoe model.

9. Which students often feel uncomfortable in circle or horseshoe seating configurations.

Answers: Introverts and students with communication apprehension. 

10. True or False? Certain seats, like those in the front row, encourage more participation. 

Answer: We don't know if the seating creates more participation or if the students who pick those seats tend to speak up more. 

11. This simple trick can provide all students access to the teacher, regardless of where they sit.

Answer: When the teacher frequently moves his or her position around the room.  

12. What percentage of employers say they would think less favorably of workers with messy workspaces? 

Answer: 28%.

13. Who does better on achievement tests? Students who sit in the front row, middle, or back row? 

Answer: Students sitting in the front row. When you switch students from the back to the middle and front row, their achievement scores improve. 

14. What 2 seating configurations are bad for tiny classrooms? 

Answer: Horseshoe and circle. Both have big empty spaces in the center. 

15. How long does it usually take for most students who hate their seat assignments to get used to it? 

Answer: The reptilian brain takes a couple weeks to orient to a new location. After two weeks, it gets used to its new "territory." 

16. What's an easy way to remove gum from the bottom of desks?

Answer: Put ice cubes in a Ziploc bag and let the bag rest on the gum until it becomes hard. After that, chip off the gum with a knife.

17. Where should you locate the teacher's desk?

Answer: At the back of the room, so students can't easily time their surreptitious behavior when you aren't looking. Also, make sure that you have a view of the hallway from your desk. 

What Your Score Means

0 Wrong = You're a Pathological Cheater or My Co-Author!

1-3 Wrong = You’re a Classroom Design Mega-Pro!

4-6 Wrong = There's Still Hope for You. Have You Bought Our Book?

7-8 Wrong = Buy Our Book Immediately!

9-14 Wrong = We're Coming to Your Room to Help You Dig Out! Hang On!

15-0 Wrong = You Have Cats, Right? Like a lot of Cats?

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Todd Finley

Edutopia Blogger and Asst. Editor || ECU Ed Professor || Founder of Todd's Brain at || Books: Dinkytown Braves and Rethinking Classroom Design.

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