We have been doing our research

The learning estate planning and interior design teams are very interested in the research behind visible learning and agile spaces in schools.

Impact of design on users

The amphitheatre seating acts as a breakout space and collaboration areas

The impact of design on student outcomes is a report produced by The Ministry of Education, New Zealand.

The Ministry of Education in New Zealand has a lot of great resources and information on the learning environment. Including an innovative learning environment assessment tool and case studies to look at.

We are looking at ways to measure the success of the classroom designs on learner and staff wellbeing and learner attainment and achievement.

Architecture & Design Scotland

The publication, from Architecture & Design Scotland and Scottish Futures Trust
talks about the lessons learned from the Inspiring Learning Spaces initiative. You can download their leaflet showcasing 20 inspiring learning spaces.

Clever Classrooms

Source: Barrett et al., 2015. Chart: percentage of academic improvement by factor: complexity 12%, colour 11%, light 21%, temperature 12%, air quality 16%, flexibility 17%, ownership 11%. personalising factors like flexibility and student ownership were responsible for 28% of the academic progress attributed to classroom design.

Clever Classrooms is research by the University of Salford, United Kingdom.

The research is highlighted in this article by Edutopia which shows this useful chart

Image source: Edutopia website

Learning zones and pedagogy

Zoning: Gather, Collaborate, Explore and Reflect

Something we’ve been looking at recently through working with Architecture & Design Scotland, is the idea of zoning learning spaces. We’ve seen this concept in the work being done for innovative learning environments in Australia and New Zealand and through publications by Spaceoasis who develop furniture for education.

“a concept based in neuroscience; creating zones for specific tasks helps anchor the learning in the long-term memory and primes behaviour appropriate to the space, which makes for more effective learning.”


Spaceoasis has developed four learning zones which are really interesting, the links to the detail are below alongside a headline quote from their website about each space.


Gather zone: “a tightly focused space where everyone can be heard. Varied height seating means each person has a clear line of sight, so it’s easy to attract attention without having to shout”


Collaborate zone: “an agile space with furniture that learners can rearrange to suit the requirements of the task in hand, where they can share ideas and work in teams.” 


Explore zone: “an active zone replete with all the kit (and storage) to encourage learners to be inquisitive and experimental. Great for self-directed, hands-on, practical learning this adaptable space could become a STEM / STEAM studio, Makerspace, Tech Lab, Robotics Studio, Workshop… whatever your students need to discover and learn.”


Reflect Zone: “a space where learners can sit and think away from the energy and noise of the other learning spaces. An ideal place for individual reflection on work and feedback it’s also perfect for reading and working independently or in small groups. Because it is visually and acoustically separate from the main teaching space it’s useful for one-to-one teacher student conversations.”

Teachers as designers

We have also been inspired by the work of Anne Knock, an educationalist whose work involves looking at the design of the learning environment. Anne gave us a presentation that inspired us to think about teachers as designers. Anne Knock’s website.

Change and transition

Anne Knock is part of the ILETC project: Innovative Learning Environments and Teacher Change. Their work and research is about the pedagogical changes that come with changes in the design of a learning environment. They have published some videos on their website explaining their thoughts on spatial typologies in terms of pedagogy, design, acoustics, technologies and furniture.

Transition into a new environment and new ways of working is a challenge for schools all over the world and the reports and studies by the ILETC is beneficial reading to everyone interested in changing their learning environments. Their work shows that meaningful improvements to student outcomes relies on two things working together: the flexible and improved environment and teacher practice within it.

“Innovative learning spaces are physical educational facilities designed and built to facilitate the widest array of flexibility in teaching, learning, and social educational activity, while innovative teaching and learning practices are the sum of teaching and learning activities that, in combination, assist in the best possible learning outcomes and learning skills of students required in the 21st century. An innovative learning environment is produced when these two phenomena are successfully merged.”

– ILETC: A Systematic Review of the Effects of Innovative Learning Environments on Teacher Mind Frames

Anne also pointed us toward an interesting info-graphic by which gives an overview of the different generations with a focus on Generation Z for children born 1995-2009. It shows major influences, how they are engaged effectively and learning styles, the trends in further education and careers and new jobs created.

A great resource on School learning environments and change can be found on the NSW Government website 

Impact of environmental factors


Changing the way we use our learning spaces and the introduction of new furniture that encourages a more collaborative and active learning style can impact on the noise created in a space particularly if the classroom is open plan.

As with the majority of the research and guidance here, it will come as no surprise that improvements in acoustics are helped by the way the learning space is used. Read this informative guide by Ecophon about acoustics in the classroom.

Biophilic Design

The staff room is grey with pops of greens, a plant is in the foreground
  • Biophilia is the bond between human beings and nature
  • Biophilic design is building nature into the built environment to meet the need of human beings to connect to nature. Biophilia can also increase feelings of happiness and well‐being. Research has shown that exposure to nature can lower stress, elevate your mood, make you feel more relaxed and improve cognitive functions.
  • Children have an innate biological tendency to bond with the natural world. Regular positive interactions with nature allow children to feel comfortable and grow to love it.
  • The best learning environments are informal and naturalistic.

Human Spaces: The Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace

This research document is discussing the workplace but the research’s findings are applicable to learning spaces and home life also as it is about how biophilic design affects us.

Bring your own plant to school

You will notice a few plants in the photographs of the new nursery and school interior designs. These are being introduced for their attractiveness and connection to nature as well as their role in reducing CO2 and increasing oxygen bringing improvements in behaviour, engagement and wellbeing. Some really interesting reading on Professor Stephen Heppell’s website about this research and about learners bringing their own plants to their school.

Professor Stephen Heppell’s research

The work of Bournemouth University’s Professor Stephen Heppell got our attention. He talks about how the learning environment affects performance. There are many interesting  areas he has been exploring including environmental factorsshoeless Learningwrite-on surfaces and use of furniture. For more information take a look at Stephen Heppell’s website.

A comprehensive user manual on how to use these agile classrooms has been developed by Stephen, Juliet and Melissa Heppell is a great resource. Linked from the Learniture website.