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Researchers intentionally set out to discover whether classroom displays affected children’s ability to maintain focus during instruction and to learn the lesson content. “Young children spend a lot of time — usually the whole day — in the same classroom, and through this research we have shown that a classroom’s visual environment can affect how much children learn,”

It was found, according to psychology researchers of Carnegie Mellon University, that children in highly decorated classrooms were more distracted, spent more time off-task and demonstrated smaller learning gains than when the decorations were removed.

For the study, 24 kindergarten students were placed in laboratory classrooms for six introductory science lessons on topics they were unfamiliar with. Three lessons were taught in a heavily decorated classroom, and three lessons were given in a sparse classroom. The results showed that while children learned in both classroom types, they learned more when the room was not heavily decorated.

So.. should teachers take down their visual displays based on the findings of this study?

“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,” Fisher said. “Therefore, I would suggest that instead of removing all decorations, teachers should consider whether some of their visual displays may be distracting to young children.”

“We were also interested in finding out if the visual displays were removed, whether the children’s attention would shift to another distraction, such as talking to their peers, and if the total amount of time they were distracted would remain the same,” However, when the researchers tallied all of the time children spent off-task in both types of classrooms, the rate of off-task behavior was higher in the decorated classroom (38.6% time spent off-task) than in the sparse classroom (28.4% time spent off-task).

At Natural Pod we really value this research as our company was born from the idea that all children should have access to natural, healthy, sustainable learning environments that are calm, welcoming, beautiful and inspiring. We are committed to creating spaces and furniture that foster creativity and innovation, where students and educators feel valved and can thrive.

The researchers Anna V. Fisher, Karrie E. Godwin and Howard Seltman, hope these findings lead to further studies into developing guidelines to help teachers optimally design classrooms. This work was supported by Grant R305A110444 from the Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, and by Graduate Training Grant R305B090023, awarded to Carnegie Mellon University by the Department of Education.