How Classroom Design Affects Student Performance

According to a recent Gallup poll, students who are engaged are 2.5 times more likely to get good grades and succeed in school. They’re also 4.5 times more likely to feel hopeful about the future.

How can teachers improve engagement in the classroom? For starters, changing the classroom design and layout can make a big difference.

Read on to learn more about the importance of classroom design and how it can support student engagement and performance.

Why Does Classroom Design Matter?

We know that high levels of student engagement are necessary for students, teachers, and schools in general to thrive. How do classroom layouts influence student engagement and performance, though?

Here are some surprising ways that changing classroom design can help your students thrive:

Increased Ownership

The way teachers design their classrooms can either give students a greater sense of ownership over themselves and their work. It can also take away their independence and sense of autonomy.

Give students a choice in how the classroom is designed, within reason, of course. You might have a student who suggests hanging desks from the ceiling, but that doesn’t mean you have to go along with it.

When teachers give students a chance to take ownership, they can feel more confident in their decision-making abilities. This can carry over and lead to more confidence when students tackle other things, such as assignments and classroom projects.

Improved Mood

We all know how our work environment can impact our productivity, right? Students are no exception to this rule.

Classroom design can have either a positive or negative impact on students’ moods and overall engagement. Factors like the colours you use in your décor, the arrangement of the furniture, and even the air quality of the room can all cause students to feel calmer or more anxious, happy or more agitated.

When students are happier and less stressed, it’s easier for them to stay engaged and perform better in the classroom.

Increased Concentration

Think about the typical classroom design for a moment. In most cases, classrooms feature long rows of desks, all facing the front of the room where the teacher lectures and writes on a whiteboard.

This setup may be fine for some students. However, for others, it can make it hard for them to concentrate and stay engaged. This is especially true if they’re not sitting close to the front of the room.

Changing classroom layout can reduce boredom. It may also make it easier for students to concentrate on work and resist distractions.

Increased Collaboration

Changing classroom design can increase concentration. It also makes room for more collaboration between students.

If teachers want students to engage more with each other and work together to solve problems, they should consider whether or not their classroom layout is hurting or helping these efforts.

Increased Comfort

Children touching elbows in classroom

Students deserve to be comfortable. On average, they spend around 8 hours per day in their classrooms, after all.

If kids are always sitting in hard plastic chairs and craning their necks to see the whiteboard, they’re going to have a hard time staying focused and maintaining a positive mood, aren’t they?

When students are comfortable and using furniture that’s designed to support them, they have fewer distractions to deal with and will find it easier to stay engaged during the school day.

Classroom Design Ideas for Better Performance

Okay, you’re convinced that classroom design matters. What kinds of changes can you make to your students’ learning environment, though?

Addressing the following factors will help you create a more engaging classroom that allows your students to experience the benefits listed above:


Upgrading the furniture is one of the first (and most beneficial) steps teachers can take to make positive classroom design changes. By swapping out regular student desks and student chairs with ergonomic, flexible furniture, teachers can make their classrooms more engaging places and set their students up for long-term success.

What does flexible classroom furniture look like? Here are some examples: 

  • Convertible chairs and desks
  • Lightweight furniture that’s easy to rearrange
  • Collaboration desks and tables
  • Swivel chairs
  • Active stools
  • Desks and chairs with foot pedals and other “fidget” features

This kind of furniture encourages movement throughout the day. It also makes it easier for students to collaborate with one another. Rather than wasting time and energy moving heavy desks into pods for group projects, they can simply pivot or lean forward across the table to have a discussion.

Tech Integration

To create more engaging, interactive classrooms, teachers shouldn’t be afraid of integrating technology into their learning environments.

Some people might push back against the idea of tech integration. They may argue that it presents more distractions and reduces student engagement.

In reality, though, when used correctly technology (such as smart boards and tablets) can actually support student learning and increase engagement.

By including technology in their classroom design, both on an individual level and with the more holistic things like the front-of-room display, teachers create more opportunities for students. They give students the resources they need to explore complex problems, conduct research to back up their arguments, and share notes and resources with other students.

As long as sufficient safeguards are put in place to prevent students from virtually wandering, the benefits of tech integration outweigh the drawbacks.


Changing the colours in the classroom can have a positive impact on engagement. For example, certain colours like green, blue, and orange are linked to improved concentration, productivity, and mood.

colourful wall

Even if teachers can’t repaint their classrooms, they can still find ways to incorporate these colours into the design. Simple décor changes can influence student behaviour and engagement without the students even realizing it.

Simplicity vs Complexity

If a classroom is too cluttered, it could become a distracting place. When students are more distracted, it’s harder for them to focus, collaborate with their peers, and stay engaged. 

Teachers can reduce the likelihood of this happening by keeping classroom layouts simple and avoiding hanging up too many decorations or cramming the room with too much furniture.

Remember, the importance of simplicity applies to both furniture and décor. While teachers may want to make lots of investments or upgrades to increase engagement, they can go too far. Less is more.

Natural Light

The more natural light students have access to during the school day, the better. Natural light exposure improves mood, increases energy, and helps students to concentrate.

Teachers should make an effort to keep windows uncovered as much as possible during the day. They may also want to change their classroom design so that students’ light exposure is maximized. For example, don’t position desks so that students’ backs are turned to the windows.

Air Quality

Teachers also should make efforts to improve air quality when they’re tackling issues with their classroom design.

Poor air quality can lead to health problems that increase student absenteeism (and decrease engagement by default). It may also cause difficulty focusing and lead to reductions in student performance.

There are lots of ways that teachers can improve air quality. Installing air purifiers or simply opening the windows are great first steps.

It’s also important to address structural issues within schools, though. This includes leaky roofs, insufficient cleaning, or the excessive use of harsh cleaning products.

Change Your Classroom Design Today

From changing furniture styles and arrangements to upgrading air quality, there are lots of ways that classroom design can positively or negatively impact student performance.

Are you looking to help your students become more engaged at school? Give some of the classroom design ideas listed above a try today. Have a look at some of our Flexible School Designs too, for more ideas and inspiration!