Study Proves Design Significantly Impacts Learning

© University of Salford

For decades, schools have slowly morphed into prison-like facilities with artificially lit rooms and barricaded playgrounds. However, the trend is beginning to shift. With a highlight on sustainable design, a focus on safety and an increased demand on positive learning environments, more people are paying attention to the way we design our schools.

In light of this, the University of Salford in Manchester and the architects of Nightingale Associates have released the results of a year-long pilot study revealing the significant impact well-designed learning environments have on a student’s academic achievement over a year, which is proven to be as much as 25 percent!

Professor Peter Barrett, School of the Built Environment, University of Salford said: “It has long been known that various aspects of the built environment impact on people in buildings, but this is the first time a holistic assessment has been made that successfully links the overall impact directly to learning rates in schools. The impact identified is in fact greater than we imagined and the Salford team is looking forward to building on these clear results.”

More on the study after the break…

In the UK, researchers studied 751 students in 34 classrooms at seven Blackpool LEA primary schools between the start and end of an academic year, from September 2011 to June 2012. They collected student data, including age, gender, and performance level in maths, reading and writing, along with a comprehensive assessment of the classroom environment, which evaluated classroom orientation, flexibility, layout, color, natural light, noise, temperature and air quality.

They found that “73 percent of the variation in pupil performance driven at the class level can be explained by the building environment factors measured in this study.” This means “placing an average pupil in the least effective, rather than the most effective classroom environment could affect their learning progress by as much as the average improvement across one year.”

Design Research Lead, Caroline Paradise from Nightingale Associates, said: “We are excited by these early findings which suggest that the classroom plays an important role in pupil performance. This will support designers and educators in targeting investment in school buildings to where it will have the most impact, whether new build or refurbishment.”

The study will continue for another 18 months and cover another 20 schools in different areas of the UK. It is being funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council(EPSRC) and commissioned by THiNK.

You can find the complete study here.

For more on the subject, read “Community-Oriented Architecture in Schools: How ‘Extroverted’ Design Can Impact Learning and Change the World” and scroll through our “Educational” Pinterest board for a selection of inspiring learning environments.

via the University of Salford

Cite: Rosenfield, Karissa. "Study Proves Design Significantly Impacts Learning" 03 Jan 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 26 May 2015. <>
  • Peter Szabo

    Such a great study! I’ve seen a great presentation from Julian Treasure on TEDtalks about the poor acoustics of an average classroom; he has told that students in classrooms miss 50 percent of what their teachers say and patients in hospitals have trouble sleeping because of the high noise level. Educational and healthcare places must be optimized for acoustic parameters as well at the beginning of the designing process.

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  • Kyle

    So true. As a high school student who goes to a red brick windowless school I totally agreemany makes all the rooms depressing and not mind stimulating. My old school was truly a beautiful building with abundunt natual light, it makes a huge difference.

  • Pingback: UK Study: Architectural Design Improves Learning | HOLT Architects


    is the study that cost 31$50 all about educational design ?? I do want to purchase it but I’m not sure , please help me. I will soon work on a graduation project of an education building ( a college maybe ) and I really want to apply this study to my design.