"Heavily decorated classrooms can bombard students with too much visual information, interfering with their memory and ability to focus, a new study finds." So begins an article by Youki Terada on Edutopia.com.
The author explains: "This is just the latest study to examine the relationship between classroom environment and students' executive functions, which include skills like memory, attention, and self-regulation.
While teachers have good intentions when decorating, many classrooms end up being 'sensory-rich in a way that could hamper children's learning gains rather than help,' according to psychologists Pedro Rodrigues and Josefa Pandeirada, who coauthored the study."
Source: “Dos and Don’ts of Classroom Decorations,” by Youki Terada, Edutopia.com, October 24, 2018
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I know a teacher who begins each year with plain, empty walls, and nothing more than a colorful welcome message on the chalk board. She then invites her students to decorate the room with her, posting their work and illustrating concepts and strategies as they go. It's a radical approach that invites the students to take greater ownership of their environment and their learning.
We had a great debate about this in one of my child development classes. In general, not only do I not agree with the premise, but it always fascinates me that no-one talks about underestimating environments - i.e. boredom! What researchers seems to forget is that one of the main things we should be teaching is not attention, but selective attention - i.e. the ability to focus on relevant stimuli and disregard irrelevant stimuli. The other issue, of course, which is one that I think needs a lot more attention, is that children do not respond to the same stimuli that adults do, yet its the adults who arrange these classrooms.