If you are a teacher who likes to decorate your classroom for all different occasions throughout the school year, you might be doing your students more harm than good. That’s because new research suggests that heavily decorated classrooms might be disrupting the learning process more than helping it. In other words, it’s time to take some of the décor you bought at Michael’s down.
According to the Association for Psychological Science, heavily decorated classrooms disrupt attention and learning in young children. While it’s very important for children to visually see maps, number lines, shapes, artwork, and other materials on their classroom walls, too much of it might be a bad thing.
Psychology researchers Anna V. Fisher, Karrie E. Godwin and Howard Seltman of Carnegie Mellon University believe that too many distractions can affect a child’s ability to maintain focus during instruction throughout the school day. In their study, they found that kids who were in heavily decorated settings were more likely to become distracted, spend more time off-task and demonstrated smaller learning gains. They are more likely to look at drawings, read maps, or daydream than actually pay attention to their teacher.
Dr. Fisher, lead author and associate professor of psychology in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, explained, “Young children spend a lot of time — usually the whole day — in the same classroom, and we have shown that a classroom’s visual environment can affect how much children learn. We do not suggest by any means that this is the answer to all educational problems. Furthermore, additional research is needed to know what effect the classroom visual environment has on children’s attention and learning in real classrooms.”
In the study, 24 kindergarten students were placed in a lab classroom for six science lessons and taught topics that they were unfamiliar with. Three lessons were taught in a decorated classroom while three lessons were taught in a sparse classroom. The results showed that while the students did learn in both settings, they had better results in the sparse classroom (55 percent correct) than in the decorated classroom (42 percent correct).
Now, that’s not to say that teachers should strip down any and all decorations that they have in their classrooms. After all, a warm, inviting classroom is one that is more likely to make a child feel good in. But overdoing it with an abundant amount of visuals is what might cause long-term problems. The researchers in the study are hoping that their findings will lead to further studies and better yet, develop new guidelines in helping teachers optimally design their classrooms.