Developing the Learning Environment – Student Led CPD

env teachers walking

The 15 minute forum today was a bit different!  It was led by Steph Holt (@sholt12), Sam Down (@SDown4) and four of our students.  The students led us on a whistle stop tour of the school, taking us to the classrooms they thought had features that supported their learning. The students had been briefed at the start of the week to give this some thought – and they certainly had done just that!  This article is a summary of what the students thought.

env ushapeThe first classroom they took us to was Mr Tyler’s (@Spartakus1919) history room. They said “This demonstrates the ‘horse-shoe’ effect in the classroom, which can encourage discussion – something that is good in a humanities classroom, as this is an important part of the lesson“.  They also liked the way this made it easier for the teacher to get to all students.

Students also commented that the room was neat and tidy – uncluttered.  It was also well organised.  They knew where their book boxes were and also where spare paper, stationary and text books were – this helped the students with classroom routines and in their opinion, made a big difference to the smooth running of the lessons.  It was also interesting to hear students commenting on small details like having 2 or 3 bins around the room and the teacher desk off to the side – so they weren’t distracted by it.

Other things the students liked about the humanities classrooms was the fact that they were light and spacious.  Students also commented that they found it easier to stay focused when the classroom was kept at the right temperature

Prompt Posters

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Another aspect of the history classrooms that students found useful, were prompt posters like the ones above.  The set on the left provide students with tips and techniques for answering exam questions, whilst the set on the right give students a set of connectives to use for certain stages of an essay.

env5benv command words

Two other examples were also found in science labs.  The students liked the fact that the 5Bs were hanging from the ceiling (left) as it “reminded you what to do when you were stuck”.  Similalrly they said “It’s useful having command words stripped down the side of the white board in Mrs White’s room, as it allows us to know what sort of questions we will be asked about” (see photo on the right)

Aiding Assessment

env progressenv mfllevel

In Miss Holt’s room, they liked the ‘Track Your Progress’ board (left) – “This allows individual students to see how they’re doing in their assessments”.  They also liked the way the MFL department made it clear what they had to be aiming for each level in speaking, listening and writing, using the ‘level arrows’ – shown in the picture on the right hand side.


The photo above is of Mr Bloomer’s ‘Assessment Board’ – “We like the idea of displaying exemplar work.  Not only does he put up the best of people’s work, but also pieces of work at different levels, so people with different target grades, know what to aim for – giving them a visual, personal goal to aim for.  In Mrs Christie’s art room there are lots of pieces of work on the ceiling; we believe that this good as it inspires students to do the same, if not better” – see below:

env artroom

Student work displayed outside the classroom in corridors

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The two photos above show student work being displayed out of the classrom, in the corridors.  Students liked it this, as it meant their work had a ‘wider audience’.  They said that they often discussed what was good about the work, as they were waiting to go in the lesson – it also “got them in the mood” for that particular subject!

Student work displayed in classrooms

env scileafenv historywork

Students said that they liked having their work displayed in classrooms and gave them a sense of achievement.  It made them feel proud when their work “made it to the wall”.  Interestingly, they didn’t like it if teachers put their work up on the wall without asking their permission first.

The best displays were colourful, specific to the subject, regularly updated and could be used as learning resources.

Another approach to this has been to leave a part of a notceboard blank.  Then, when a student does a good piece of work during a lesson, it can be put up straight away for the class to see (thanks to James Gardner – @langnut – for this tip) and act as a discussion point.  I have also heard of some teachers using blackboard paint on a notice board, so they can use chalk to annotae exemplary work.

Developing language

env wordweekenv bus words

In Miss Darling’s (@DarlingDurr) English classroom, they really liked the ‘Word of the Week’ board (left).  Every week a new word is displayed on the board and students have to try to incorporate this into their work.  They like the way this challenges their use of language and develops their vocabulary.

Similarly, in Mrs Melling’s Business Studies classroom, students liked having subject specific key terms around the room – as reminders to support their work.

So what else did the students say?

Teacher: “Does the classroom learning environment make a difference to your learning?”

Students said:

  • Messy rooms are distracting
  • Boring classroom – boring lesson
  • Colourful displays can be inspiring
  • More likely to get things done in a comfortable environment
  • Pictures and key words help to engage
  • You learn for examples of good work

Teacher: Do you think classroom layout has an effect on your learning?

Students said:

  • Layout needs changing more
  • Grouping tables together encourages group work
  • Hate it when you are not facing the front in groups
  • Horseshoe arrangement of desks is good for discussion
  • Naughty students sat with good students helps them to work – good role models.

To summarise….

The physical appearance and strategic location of furnishings, materials and equipment do make a difference in classroom management, student productivity and teacher effectiveness. Motivation, wellness and attitudes are favourably impacted by colour, personalised space and face-to-face engagement. Colourful classrooms with displays of good student work, some “creature comforts” and age-appropriate displays encourage learning. Seating arrangements that enable occupants to see the faces of the people speaking are judged more pleasant by teachers and students. These factors do, in fact, create more productive environments. U-shaped configurations allow teachers to circulate into the space of learners — or distracters — with just a few steps and enable students to see each other and teachers better’

Source: Ten Strategies for Creating a Classroom Culture of High Expectations

Many thanks to Mark Warner (@MarkJWarner1) of Patcham High School for this great idea.  It’s an excellent way of getting students to lead learning in school and certainly something we will be developing further.

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8 Responses to Developing the Learning Environment – Student Led CPD

  1. Sue marooney says:

    I really enjoyed the forum, having students and staff talking together about learning is energising. Well done to Steph, Sam and Alex and everyone who was part of the group.

  2. Mr Fuller says:

    Well done to all the students and staff involved in this. It is excellent and really thought provoking. An excellent example of student leadership in action!

  3. Helen Rogerson says:

    Do also consider light levels. The students may say they like bright classrooms, but when I have had a classroom with dimmer switches I have found that lower light levels mean calmer classrooms. Other colleagues were surprised, but agreed when they tried it.

  4. Di Owen says:

    I really like the idea of students leading learning. I have developed Learning Ambassadors who have observed lessons and are now planning CPD for staff. They are also planning activities for students and parents to enhance learning behaviour. They are implementing ab ‘adopt a teacher’ scheme to allow staff to discuss with a student pair lesson ideas, delivery strategies etc, and get feedback from a pupil perspective. I will suggest to them to look at the learning environment and to see if they can help improve this to improve learning as a result. Thanks for sharing this.

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