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The Shift to High Impact Learning Environments

It’s the first day of school. Students have the choice between two classroom environments.

The first classroom has all the desks facing the front of the room where there is whiteboard and a projection screen. The layout supports lecture as the primary mode of instruction. Students have just entered a traditional classroom.

The second classroom is arranged with an array of seating options, integrated technology, and marker boards around the room. This layout reflects a High Impact Learning Environment™ with flexible furniture, writing surfaces, and technology that support instructors while engaging students in shared learning activities.

It’s not hard to see that the second classroom environment would be popular. The 21st Century Classroom should provide an environment where students develop foundational soft skills and teachers can become the activators of their student’s learning.

Moving away from Traditional Classrooms

The traditional classroom layout can be practical. This layout is effective for traditional instructional methods because it encourages focus on the teacher and the lesson. But are students in this setting developing a real passion for learning?

A study from the National Training Laboratories found that only about 5 percent of the information delivered through lecture was retained. Compare that with retention rates at 90 percent by students teaching others. The more active the teaching and learning methods, the higher the retention rates.

High Impact Learning Environments™ incorporate five key components when planning for an active classroom.

  1. Integrated Technology: The integration of technology into the environment is more involved than placing computers in a classroom. Designing environments that support and enhance the use of technology as part of the learning process is critical to increasing student engagement and encouraging students to take ownership over their learning.

  2. Learner Mobility: Today’s learner is mobile. Effective use of mobile technologies allows for an ideal connection between learning environments, where both educators and students can access a multitude of resources to support learning across time and setting.

  3. Adaptability: The design of a space must support current educational delivery methods with an eye to the future. Adaptability in the classroom allows educators to model a different approach to learning and take advantage of learning opportunities that aren’t always planned.

  4. Multiple Modalities: A High Impact Learning Environment is designed so that differential instruction may take place with ease. This means creating spaces, configurations and flexibility to support a variety of learning strengths and styles. All kids are different, and the design of the environment should reflect this idea.

  5. Dynamic Ergonomics: Studies show that between the ages of 5 and 16 a child will spendapproximately 15,000 hours sitting down. Humans are made to move and an active learning environment stimulates cognitive development.

Modern Day, 21st Century Classrooms

The High Impact Learning Environment™ focuses on student-centered learning. Students who walk into this environment on the first day of school will be walking into a classroom that invites them to be an active participant in the learning process.

Brandon Hillman, ALEP, VP of Sales, East Region


Brandon is a passionate industry thought leader and education advocate with over eight years of experience in creating High-impact Learning Environments. He has been with MeTEOR Education since 2013 and in that time has worked with districts across the country on transforming their learning environments in a planned, progressive, and programmatic manner. Brandon is an Accredited Learning Environment Planner (ALEP). This is the Association for Learning Environment’s (formally CEFPI) most comprehensive professional program in the educational facility industry. It is therefore the top industry standard for all professionals engaged in planning, designing, operating, maintaining, and equipping learning environments at all levels of education. His greatest joy comes from spending time with his wife Meghan, and their two sons: Easton and Jameson.



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