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For a classroom to foster 21st-century learning styles, it needs a 21st-century classroom design with multi-purpose spaces and connected learning areas that support movement, student choice, and a collaborative environment. Educators were asked to rank the importance of certain features available in modern classrooms. Two of the highest rated features were the ability to accommodate different learning styles and classroom design that encourages movement and decreases sedentary behavior.

Importance of Classroom Features for Flexibility

Importance of Flexible and Collaborative Features by School Type: Among the respondents who said that certain features are “extremely” or “somewhat” important, some distinctions appear when looking at their school type. Elementary school teachers were significantly more likely than senior high educators to believe most features queried, including those relating to flexible, collaborative spaces, were extremely or somewhat important to the classroom. It can be quite challenging to get a room of 25 eight-year-olds to pay attention with the same focus that 17-year-olds have, and elementary school teachers understand the value of a variety of classroom features to address their students’ needs.

Importance of Classroom Features

Learning Styles: Many students learn at their own pace and are motivated by a variety of different methodologies. Schools that follow a traditional structure and environment can be stifling for students who require more visual, aural, and social/solitary learning. Survey respondents were asked about a variety of learning styles, and those replies were compared with whether they had a completed construction or renovation in the past five years, or believe their school needs a renovation in some way.

  • Increasing physical movement: Students are able to get up from their desks, walk around, have options like standing desks, soft seating, and flexibility with how and where they learn.
  • Providing students with the option to be social or solitary in their learning space: Some students thrive in noisy work groups, while others work better in a more solitary, quiet setting.
  • Resources for visual learners: Studies show that overall, students learn better with both words and pictures than with words alone,15 and some learn better when they can visualize what they’re learning with the help of videos, animations, and other media.
  • Accommodations for audio “aural” based learning: These include headsets, or other hardware for students who find that listening to text helps them learn more efficiently.

Teachers reported that the top learning style accommodations for a completed construction or renovation project included increased physical movement opportunities (67%), providing students with the choice of being social or solitary (54%), and more resources for visual learners (46%).

Learning Styles by Completed or Desired Projects

Considerations Regarding Flexible, Collaborative Environments

What were some of the high-level goals of completed construction or renovation projects? What are the top considerations from those who think a renovation is needed? How do the teacher opinions and experiences compare? For teachers who already experienced construction or renovation, top considerations included providing more classroom space (37%), and accommodating a changing school population (34%). This could mean a change in student enrollment, or it could indicate a cultural shift in the way students learn. Note the large difference when comparing the considerations that were part of completed construction (providing more classroom space: 37%, and creating more collaborative learning spaces: 27%), and considerations deemed necessary in desired renovations (70% and 69% respectively). Educators see how some of the most up-to-date, state of the art schools are functioning, and they want the same level of modernity in their schools.

Considerations in Completed Projects by School Type

With respect to completed projects across different school types, one of the most mentioned considerations was providing more classroom space. Senior High schools can be some of the most crowded schools, so it makes sense that this type of school considered this a priority (41% compared with 37% overall). Senior high schools also saw more collaborative spaces developed than the other school types (32% compared with 27% overall).

Considerations in Desired Construction or Renovation by School Size

What about teachers who feel construction is needed in their schools? While some differences exist, considerations across all school sizes included providing more classroom space (70% overall) and creating collaborative learning spaces (69% overall). Teachers from larger schools indicated the most (70% and higher) that they’d like more classroom space, and teachers from medium-size schools favored the inclusion of collaborative learning spaces (77% compared with 61% of teachers from “very large” schools).

Key Takeaways

Accommodating different learning styles: Facility planners need to accommodate a wide variety of learning styles. Project-based learning and collaboration are important for academic success, and require flexible spaces. High schools in particular need environments that encourage student engagement and collaboration.

Service providers as partners: Those who develop solutions can position themselves as providers of tools that promote collaboration, digital literacy, critical thinking, and problem-solving. By doing so, they will be viewed as partners in creating future-ready classrooms.

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

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