• Question: There seems to be various opinions on whether colourful and vibrant displays on the walls in classrooms are distracting or not. What are your thoughts on this? Is there evidence to suggest it has benefits?

    Asked by modkathryn to Rebecca, Mike, Katie, Gaia, Alex on 28 Feb 2018.
    • Photo: Mike Hobbiss

      Mike Hobbiss answered on 28 Feb 2018:


      It’s an interesting question. There is research suggesting that highly decorated classroom environments could be distracting for children and impede learning, e.g. Barrett, P., Davies, F., Zhang, Y., & Barrett, L. (2015). The impact of classroom design on pupils learning: Final results of a holistic, multi-level analysis. Building and Environment
      Hanley, M., Khairat, M., Taylor, K., Wilson, R., Cole-fletcher, R., Riby, D. (2017). Classroom displays- attraction or distraction? Evidence of impact on attention and learning from children with and without autism.

      At the same time, the designs used in some of these studies are not all that similar to a real classroom (e.g. a video of a teacher presenting against a very busy background, which isn’t very realistic as a model of a classroom). You also have to factor in other factors such as possible motivational benefits of the displays and the potential for relevant displays to useful reduce cognitive load by reminding students of key vocab or methods for approaching problems. Drawing all that together I think my ideal classroom design would be blank at the front (other than the whiteboard etc), some simple highly relevant key terms etc in displays towards the front at the sides, which students could refer to to help them with ongoing work, and then more ‘motivational’ displays celebrating students work at the back.

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