5 Design Principles to Boost Student Confidence

Oct 11, 2017 · 5 min read

Learning spaces have a huge role to play in giving students — literally — the room to express themselves, demonstrate what they’ve learned, and showcase what they’re proud of. As we migrate to more experiential and project-based learning, it is important to provide the right spaces for students to learn and grow.

In your forward-thinking school community, you might have students producing a video for a Language Arts class, or building a solar-powered robot in Physics. These projects have the potential to boost student confidence, especially if students are given the tools and space to succeed.

In one of our previous posts on zoning your classroom, we talk about the spaces that support Nonaka’s four modes of learning: socialize, externalize, combine, and internalize. Using the same theory, let’s dive into innovative classroom designs and hacks that boost student confidence.

  1. Ideation Phase: Space to Brainstorm

The “brain dump” phase is a crucial part of the learning process — it’s a way for students to safely share ideas, and for teacher to gather real-time insights on how students are thinking and processing material.

Da Vinci Innovation Academy makes the Post-It brainstorming session an easy and colorful process. To set up, give each group of students a large piece of poster paper and packs of colored Post-Its. Divide the paper in half into “What I Understand” and “What I’m Curious About.” When students are done discussing as a group, bring the class back together into a larger discussion.

Another, more visual, brain dump method is mind mapping. This Unit Development Mind Map welcomes visitors at the entrance of the East Bay School for Boys, showing nine growth areas that make up the ideal EBSB graduate. As shown, students have shared examples of how they developed in areas of social justice and creativity. Having this life-size map right at the school entrance serves as an everyday reminder of what this community cares about.

2. Socializing Phase: Lounge to Socialize

Today’s kids spend on average seven hours a day staring at a screen. Seven hours! In a working world where collaboration is key to success, it’s more important than ever that students get proper face-time with peers, to boost confidence in interacting with, well, real humans.

Within the classroom setting, experiment with the seating arrangements using irregular tables or soft seating. If you really care about student outcomes, it shouldn’t matter how or where they sit — so long as they are learning and not disturbing other students. Simply giving students different options for seating helps build trust and confidence.

Don’t forget about public spaces! Learning happens outside of the classroom as much as it does inside. These stadium seats offer a visible, informal space for students to work in groups or simply hang out.

In larger spaces, you can always create intimate nooks and acoustic privacy by using curtain dividers.

3. Making Phase: Access to Technology

In last week’s blog post, we shared some of our favorite hacks and designs for creating a tech-powered classrooms. Besides those tips, there are other ways to provide students with access to technology resources.

Tech doesn’t have to mean $$$. Ditch the SmartBoard and consider grouping monitors like in this classroom to create a mega display screen. Then, sit back and enjoy student videos and presentations in high-definition.

In the hallways, you can use digital boards for announcements or to display digital student projects. You can even designate a small team of students as the Announcement Board Managers — allow students to flex their leadership and teamwork muscles.

Tech also means hardware! Spaces like this workshop classroom are all the rage these days. One way to get mileage out of fabrication spaces is to teach students how to use the tools through simple projects, then let them tinker and build physical solutions for a problem. Lacking storage space in the classroom? Have students ideate and build a solution — in-school! What better to build student confidence than to use something they build?

4. Showcasing Phase: Show and Tell 2.0

When it comes to showcasing student projects, think outside the box — or inside it. We love this fish tank display, where a teacher repurposed an old fish tank for a student to build this diorama. If you don’t have a fish tank lying around, shoe boxes can also do the job.

Exhibition can also mean a stage — where students can perform what they’ve learned. An open space like this one at Brightworks opens up a world of possibilities — dance rehearsals, stretching out in downward dog, even a Shakespeare rap battle! Give students some inspiration, a bit of nudging, and some space to demonstrate themselves, and you might be pleasantly surprised.

5. Give Students Choice & Voice

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that students play an important role in the classroom — as co-creators! Letting go of some control is not easy— facilitating student-led learning is often harder than playing sage on the stage! But students today need to drive their own learning experiences, and your job is to empower them to do just that. Thankfully, space can step in as the “third teacher” and take some of the load off your shoulders.

How do you build student confidence in your classroom? Share your hack for a chance to win $200 for your classroom! Enter the #HackYourClassroom competition by October 20: www.room2learn.org/hack. Team submissions encouraged, so get your colleagues together and get hacking!


Designing 21st century learning spaces


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learning is changing, classrooms have not. let’s make room to learn!


Designing 21st century learning spaces

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