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Recent research respondents were asked if their classroom environment is conducive to 21st-century learning, which was described in the survey as “learning that includes collaboration, digital literacy, critical thinking, and problem-solving.” The types of instructional methods used to teach these skills vary, but generally involve at least having some technological resources, collaborative work areas, and curricular guidance.

Most classrooms today can do better in terms of providing an environment that is helpful for preparing students to face real world challenges, yet most teachers have had to make do with the resources available. Fortunately, most educators queried believed their current classroom environment is conducive to teaching 21st-century skills (72%).

21st-Century Classroom by School Type

Elementary school educators were significantly more likely (74%) than middle school and senior high school educators to believe their current classroom is conducive to building 21st-century skills.

21st-Century Classroom by Construction Phase

Respondents in schools with completed construction or renovation (77%), and those who didn’t think construction was necessary in their school (82%) were more likely to believe their classroom is conducive to 21st-century learning. Teachers who are satisfied with their current classroom environment are more likely to think they are equipped to support the broad curricular needs of their students, including developing 21st-century skills. Teachers who think construction or renovation is needed in their school were the least likely to see their current environment as conducive to teaching 21st-century skills (62%), pointing to a possible lack of resources or general dissatisfaction with their school environment.

Key Takeaways

Overall, the respondents agreed that education environments impact learning: Ninety-four percent of respondents indicated that space has a combined high and moderate impact on learning.

It is clear from the data that educators believe that learning environments should be able to provide an atmosphere conducive to teaching 21st-century skills, including collaboration, digital literacy, critical thinking, and problem-solving.

The fewer resources a school or district has, the less likely it has the opportunities available to successfully teach these skills, which is evidenced by a change in opinion based on the respondent’s poverty percentage level.

The physical environment is particularly important to elementary school teachers whose students move around and experience all aspects of one classroom during the school day.

Diving deeper in regards to how space impacts learning, positive environments are conducive for learning and better performance—environments that are spacious and inviting. Smaller spaces or negative environments can create distractions and deter learning. Furthermore, bigger spaces allow for group work, discussions, and independent learning.

About this Research and Methodology

State of the K-12 Market 2018: The Impact of Learning Spaces on Student Success, is based on an online survey conducted by MDR, with a nationwide sample of K-12 public school educators. Teachers and librarian/media specialists were sent an email invitation to take the survey and 1,685 completed it. Data collection occurred from May 24 through June 17, 2018. Respondents were asked if their school had undergone a construction or renovation in the past five years, or if their school has a renovation planned in the near future. If neither was the case, they were asked if their school is in need of a renovation. Throughout the report, how the respondents answered this question will be referenced for perspective. Nearly one-fourth of the respondents work in schools planning a renovation, over one-third reported construction took place recently, and nearly two-thirds believe their school needs construction or a renovation in the next five years. This points to the importance teachers place on having modern, updated learning spaces in which to teach. Learn more about MDR Education reports at