The STEM Education Blog

Easy, flexible classroom designs that are drastically improving learning

Jul 29, 2019 12:00:00 PM / by Sara Siener

American students are averaging 11,700 hours of their lives in school before going to college.

And with this, many teachers are trying to find ways to get them excited to learn. But, what if their lessons are not the cause of their students' lack of engagement?

The solution may not be the one you're expecting ...

Dr. Robert Dillon, the director of innovative learning for The School District of University City, Missouri, has proposed through his research that redesigning classrooms is the key to maximizing student achievement.

Serving as a "teacher, principal, and director of innovation throughout the St. Louis area for the past twenty years," Dr. Dillon has shared his experience and ideas on innovating modern-day classrooms by speaking to school districts nationally and "writing a variety of publications." His research has changed educational philosophy—prompting teachers to incorporate his innovative ideas into their pedagogic methods.

After an interview with Dr. Dillon and his colleague, Manuel S. Herrera, the two voiced students' feedback after witnessing the redesign of classrooms within their schools.

Dr. Robert Dillon

"They would say how it looked different than their traditional classrooms. Kids would say, “I want to be here. I want to take this  class.”

It was as simple as the seating in the room with its non-traditional tables.

It created a different energy in the room. We were able to get them excited again about learning" (Hoonuit, 2016). – Dr. Dillion 

                  Dr. Robert Dillon

In another interview, with Jennifer Gonzalez, Dr. Dillon explains his rationale behind the redesigned classrooms in 12 ways on how teachers can upgrade their classroom.

Below is a brief list shared from Gonzalez's article on Dr. Dillon's insights about the ways teachers can get their students excited about learning through different classroom designs.

1. Ask your students

2. Subtract from the space

3. Mix up your seating options

4. Consider the perimeter

5. Reduce your teacher footprint

6. Create spaces for collaboration

7. Create spaces for creation

8. Create writable spaces

9. Create spaces for quiet

10. Create spaces to showcase learning (not grades)

11. Minimize your classroom's color palette

12. Utilize the hallway

Click on the link above for more information on classroom designs. blogpost1

Educators are reaching out to Dr. Dillon, expressing their appreciation of his intuition on maximizing the traditional classroom. Many have since exclaimed their gratitude for this increase in student engagement and motivation.


Classroom Decor:

Dr. Dillon advocates the importance of being purposeful when decorating. Rather than needlessly cluttering classrooms with an abundance of decorations, he urges educators to be intentional with their decors—such as when using posters, pictures, objects, and symbols.

A study made by a team of researchers, Cheryan, Ziegler, Plaut, and Meltzoff, on Designing Classrooms to Maximize Student Achievement, supports this statement while further encouraging educators to be conscientious of the kinds of decorations they are incorporating in their classrooms.


Student Representation:

Furthermore, this study shows how underrepresented students in classrooms will perform drastically worse than the students that are clearly portrayed.

Researchers advise that teachers stay mindful—using decor that reaches their entire student populous.

Studies, such as the one conducted by these researchers, educate us on how collaborative works spaces have changed the culture of our schools and have prompted conversation on the topic of innovative ideas for traditional classrooms.


To learn more about Dr. Dillon and his impact on his pedagogical strategies, check out: Voices in Tech: Flexible classroom designs aid STEM learning

If you liked this article, read more about how to maximize your classroom this school year here: 3 Ways to Incorporate STEM into Your Classroom on a Budget

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Topics: STEM Tools, STEM Education Tools, Promoting Interest in STEM, STEM Learning Methodologies

Sara Siener

Written by Sara Siener