Optimising Teaching and Learning Environments

Staff development network

Dr Mark Dowley April 25th, 2024 · 2min read

The discussion this week is around the design of school buildings. I’ve worked in a number of schools that have undertaken large building projects and have often lamented how the new buildings are not optimised for teaching and learning.

I understand there can be a tension between architecturally pleasing building designs and practical teaching spaces. To overcome this, the Crowther Centre created an architecture plan – a list of non-negotiables to underpin the design of a new building.

Key points

The design of the new buildings should meet the following criteria:

  • There should be zero noise between classrooms. We do not want to be able to hear students in another area from that space.
  • No other classroom should be visible from student seated height during instructional time.
  • All classrooms should have low level reflective surfaces. It should be easy to see the board and screen from all seats. There does not need to be multiple presentation positions in the classroom.
  • All classrooms should be set to a maximum class size + 2.
  • One third of floor space should be available for floor work in the Junior (Primary) School (JS).
  • All classrooms should have natural light.
  • All classrooms should have individual desks which enable:

– rooms to be used for assessment;
– staff to circulate for checks for understanding.

  • All classrooms should be equipped with a box for phone storage during the lesson (Years 9-12).
  • All classrooms must be well ventilated.
  • All classrooms should have adequate storage fit for purpose. Specifically, there should be adequate space for storage of:

– classroom materials;
– incidental student items such as instruments, sports bags etc.;
– JS desks should have adequate storage within the desk (under draw, not lift up);
– laptops.

  • All rooms should have a teacher desk – a simple table and chair are adequate.
  • Whiteboards should be high use, easy to clean whiteboards. Preferably of maximum size.
  • All classrooms should be technology able.
  • All classrooms should have the capacity to provide work samples and other ‘signs of life’.
  • From Year 3 onwards, desks should be individual, fit for purpose desks that can be joined to make pairs or combined to make small group work tables.

Happy coaching,

Would you like to receive these newsletters to your inbox?
Subscribe to the Staff Development Network.


Science of Learning

Staff development network

Dr Mark Dowley March 13th, 2024 · 2min read

Mastery in Teaching

Staff development network

Dr Mark Dowley March 4th, 2024 · 2min read

Effective Instruction

Staff development network

Dr Mark Dowley February 26th, 2024 · 2min read

Do you want to be part of our Staff Development Network?

Sign up to receive our newsletter