UBC Graduate Research

Beyond the fancy table : how does classroom learning space design affect student social and emotional well-being? Domeier, Lisa; Wiebe, Curtis


Elementary students spend the majority of their school day learning in classrooms and how does this design of this learning space affect student social and emotional well-being? Does classroom learning design really lead to improved student well-being? We hoped to shed some academic light on the elements of learning space design such arrangement, materials, natural light and auditory design that contribute to a student’s feeling at home in a classroom. Space is important in schools and often a point of major contention. We wondered how elementary educators are redesigning their learning spaces to support student social and emotional well-being. Also, we pondered how district experts responsible for social and emotional learning and architecture approach the issues of space and student social and emotional well-being (SEWB). We found that elementary educators and students are co-designing classroom learning spaces, making meaningful changes that contribute to a feeling of community in the space. We interviewed three elementary teachers and two district specialists around classroom design in relation to SEWB. Their qualitative interview data provided the research basis for our inquiry. Design changes to elements such as seating, acoustics, and lighting are positively affecting SEWB, but challenges such as teacher education, static group-thought around classroom design, inadequate funding and physical design limitations inhibit implementation. Further research, dialogue and education with all parties at the design table will help us to realize why the design of learning spaces such as the classroom are so important to improving student SEWB.

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