Learning environments

What if...?

Modern learning environments and their design have deservedly attracted interest in the media. A lot has happened in the renovation of school facilities, and big changes are accompanied by a lot of emotions and fears – including genuine failures.

Along with failures, change also opens up a lot of new opportunities. As a counterweight to criticism, it is refreshing to think about positive scenarios in the development of learning environments. What if we could create the world's most inspiring and functional physical learning environment that would truly inspire students to learn? What if the students' voice could be heard more in the planning of learning environments?

Students' wishes are often linked to very basic needs. You often hear teachers mentioning the students' wishes in passing, such as "They only want the school to be filled with soft sofas and beanbag chairs". Another strong belief is that furniture with wheels leads to a chaotic classroom environment as students slide around the class and adjust the height of the furniture up and down.

We constantly collaborate with students in school design, and the truth is that students' wishes are related to much deeper things than just wanting casual furniture. Students' most important wish is often to be able to work in peace, in comfortable spaces and together with others. The students are masters at articulating their needs from a learning perspective and are genuine experts in telling about their own needs. So why don't we take these wishes more into account when planning schools?

Two students studying in PodBooth Meeting
Here are direct quotes from the results of the students' workshop:

What do you hope for from the new learning environment?

  • "You could be with a friend and talk in peace, but not too loudly."
  • "There would be different kind of seats."
  • "I would like to go to a quiet place with a friend to study together."
  • "A place to be and read in peace."

(The students who have participated in these workshops were still studying in a so-called traditional learning environment at the time, either in an old school or in a temporary barrack building.)

In its article published on November 21, 2023, Helsingin Sanomat also highlighted the places preferred by students, and these observations were very similar:

"When the children were asked to mark nice and uncomfortable places at school with post-its, many preferred the new open lobbies. They often have soft and colorful furniture, and the children think they offer suitable places for group work and hanging out together."

In the students' workshops, the environment is illustrated not only with words, but also with pictures of furniture. Furniture and elements that enable retreat, such as high-back sofas and armchairs, as well as screens and furniture that can be used to customise the environment with, stand out. The students also already have a strong understanding of how they can improve their working ergonomics and how furniture of the wrong size can affect, for example, concentration in classes. Therefore, adjustability and easy modification are essential factors in designing functional furniture.

Two students studying in a PodBooth phone booth

Quotes from the results of the students' workshop:

What would you like to give up in your old learning environment?

  • "Hard benches and dreary classrooms."

  • "Uncomfortable chairs."

  • "Too cramped spaces."

  • "Furniture of the wrong size that doesn't fit together."

On December 1, 2023, Savon Sanomat presented excerpts from a recent study by the University of Eastern Finland, in which "an international team of researchers found that students who had a negative perception of the condition of the school building experienced more anxiety."

What if by listening to these wishes and adding diversity, such as peaceful nest-like places to learning environments, we could improve self-direction, learning motivation and future working life skills in both students and teachers?

What if!

There will be more what-if visions at the Educa fair on January 26-27, 2024 – welcome to hear more and to discuss with us!

You can find Martela in booth 6d48. Come and check out our products and listen to our presentation What if?! on the Future Classroom stage, Friday 26 January, 2024 at 13:00-13:30.


Feel free to get in touch if you want to discuss developing your learning environment!
Paula Viertola, oppimisympäristöasiantuntija, MartelaPaula Viertola
Learning Environment Specialist, Martela