Active Learning Blog

Active learning blog

The Active Learning Blog created by the Novigado project focuses on active learning, innovative learning spaces and integration of ICT in present and future classrooms and schools. In this blog we will read stories written by the project partners, Future Classroom Ambassadors, FCL network labs, teacher trainers, invited experts, etc. If you would like to submit a story to be published, please send it to



Flexible Learning Spaces: the ‘Space’ dimension and the quality parameters of the classroom

In the educational context there has been a growing interest in learning spaces, motivating the term "learning environment" mean much more than “the physical space in which learning takes place; to encompass both pedagogical and psychosocial elements of such environments” [1]. This article will address the issue of quality/environmental parameters to be considered when (re)building flexible learning spaces.

Although it is difficult to find a consensual definition, it is considered that the new spaces are not limited to a new approach for the organization of the physical space. In this ways, it is necessary to rethink the layout and organization of the present classrooms which requires a flexible, modular and adaptable architecture, bearing in mind the knowledge that has been developed from different scientific areas about the impact of environmental space on human learning [2]. The classroom must be understood as a plural, reconfigurable, dynamic and not just as a single space. Consequently, it is inadequate to think that today’s learning can succeed in classrooms that were built in the middle of the last century [3], when what was expected from school was extremely different from what is expected now.

In the (re)construction of the space for the modernization of the classroom, Leahy [4] argues that the following aspects should be considered:

  • Layout aspects – how the space is divided and used, where the equipment and furnishings are placed, and how flexible the layout is;
  • Human aspects – the spatial relationship between teacher and students as well as between the students, how these agents are allowed to move and how are they positioned for the activities;
  • Physical aspects – the state, quality and maintenance of the room, its furniture and teaching equipment;
  • Environmental aspects – the quality of the air, the lights, the temperature, and the space acoustics.

Several studies [5][6] revealed that the factors underlying the design of classroom space (air quality, lighting, noise, temperature, ventilation), when well designed, have a positive effect on students, and contribute to the development of learning, increase performance and decrease school retention.

In a study developed between december 2016 and february 2017 [7], with the aim of analyse and describe the Innovative Learning Spaces (ILS) that have been built in the context of national primary, secondary and higher education, were analysed the quality parameters/improvements in the construction of the spaces. The determination of the quality parameters (air quality, lighting, noise, temperature, ventilation, colour of the room, comfort etc), was something that was taken care of in the creation of the study, taking into account that in this area there are few studies in the national context.

As shown in Figure 1, in 100% of the 19 ILS created, it was verified that improvements were established in the space that hosted them, both regarding lighting, acoustics, temperature, colour, comfort, safety and/or air quality. Mostly, these improvements were associated with changes in the colour of the walls and/or floor (89.5%), being frequently referred the adoption of the colours associated with the different activity zones recommended by the EUN FCL.

Figure 1: Quality improvements [8]

The improvements associated to comfort were also substantially mentioned, mainly through the integration of new furniture in these spaces. This furniture is signalled as being quite different from the furniture often found in classrooms of the public education system. This distinction lies in diversity and comfort. There is an indication that the ILS hosts a wide variety of furniture, going beyond the usual tables and chairs. At the same time, the analysed answers indicate that the furniture chosen has high levels of comfort, ergonomics, robustness and flexibility. Another distinctive feature is also identified: the ease of movement and the consequent reconfigurability of the elements in the space.

Today’s learning spaces must be changed in order to “motivate learners and promote learning as an activity, support collaborative as well as formal practice, provide a personalized and inclusive environment, and be flexible in the face of changing needs" [8]. Therefore, it is necessary for schools to adopt student-centered classroom models instead of orienting themselves to the already established models which tend to favor transmissive teaching practices. "Imagine the classroom space that fits the learning instead of learning that fits the space!" [9]. Through the implementation of spaces that benefit multiple experiences in the teaching and learning process, together with the constitutive elements (furniture, technologies, etc.), teachers can create subtle and unexpected changes within the classroom, promoting the students’ interaction, motivation for learning, and involvement. For that to happen, the space should be thought out and organized for a better and more diversified educational experience.



Patrícia Baeta, is based in Santarém, Portugal and works at the school cluster Fernando Casimiro Pereira da Silva (AEFCPS) where she coordinates projects and technological resources, and supports students and teachers in the use of ICT. She has a PhD in Education, specialization in ICT in Education by the Institute of Education, University of Lisbon.


[1] Byers, T. (2015). The empirical evaluation of the transition from traditional to New Generation Learning Spaces on teaching and learning. Second Annual International Learning Environments Research Higher Degree Symposium, pp. 32-41, 2015. Retrieved from

[2] Scott-Webber, L, Branch, J., Bartholomew, P., and Nygaard, C. (2014). Learning Space Design in Higher Education. Oxfordshire: Libri Publishing.

[3] Oblinger, D.G. (2006). Chapter 1- Space as a Change Agent, in Learning Spaces, pp. 1-12, Educause. Retrieved from

[4] Leahy, G. (2016). The Modern Classroom: Strategic Insights for School Leaders. Blackburn, Lancashire: Promethean Editions.

[5] Barrett, P., Kobbacy, P., Moffat, J., & Zhang,Y.F. (2013). A holistic, multi-level analysis identifying the impact of classroom design on pupils’ learning. Building and Environment, vol. 59, pp. 678-689. Retrieved from

[6] Barrett, P., Zhang,Y. F., Davies, F., & Barrett, L. (2015). The impact of classroom design on pupil’s learning: Final results of a holistic multi-level analysis”, Building and Environment, vol.89, pp. 118-133. Retrieved from

[7] Baeta, P., & Pedro, N. (2017). Future Classrooms: Analysis Of Educational Activities Developed By Teachers And Students. ICERI2017 Proceedings, pp. 130-139. Retrieved from

[8] Joint Information Systems Committee. (2006). Designing space for effective learning: A guide to 21st century space design, pp.1-36. Retrieved from

[9] Basye, D., Grant,P, Hausman, S., and Johnston,T. (2015). Get Active: Reimagining Learning Spaces for Student Success (1st edition). United States of America: ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education).

Key Info

  • Funding: Erasmus+ Programme Key Action 2 (School Education - Cooperation for innovation and the exchange of good practices)
  • Start time: 01-12-2019
  • Duration: 30 months
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Erasmus+ Programme (funded with the support by)

The Novigado project is funded with support from the European Commission's Erasmus+ Programme. This publication/website reflects the views only of the author, and the EC cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.