It’s an exciting time to be in education. Years of research on what’s effective in education are finally beginning to bear fruit and—hallelujah—administrators seem to be listening.
If you’re a new teacher, you’ve probably been initiated into a learner-centered and mindful pedagogical landscape that’s informed by exciting new research. And if you’re a more experienced teacher, you’ve certainly heard all about it in your workshops.
While learner-centered, inquiry-based, and mindful classrooms are becoming central to how we teach; however, we might be wise to reconsider where we teach. The classroom environment matters, too. It’s important to consider how a student’s surroundings can set the tone for the school year.
And the color of the classroom can color a student’s experiences, drastically. It comes down to color psychology. In case your workshops haven’t covered the influence of color on students, we’re here to help.
Einstein himself once said that he never taught his pupils, but only provided the conditions in which they can learn. As teachers and classroom decorators, this means that we want to create an environment conducive to learning.
A successful classroom design makes students feel safe, not anxious. After all, anxiety is linked to decreased academic performance and social functioning in students.
It should come as no surprise that has been shown to hinder intellectual performance in students. While the reasons for this are debatable, we know that red excites students in the wrong way—it can cause distracting feelings of anxiety.
Feeling blue—and happy?
There are a number of classroom stressors that are beyond our control, such as lighting, class size, outside noise, and temperature.
While we might expect blue to be linked to rainy days and sadness, one study found it to be the color most associated with positive emotions. This has been confirmed by other studies, but some suggest that a bright blue is best.
Whereas red might be exciting and overly stimulating, blue is most associated with feelings of comfort, security, pleasure, and low emotional arousal. I can’t help but think of blue skies warm sunny days and the good feelings they bring.
In a learner-centered classroom, incorporate blue themes to calm and comfort students. You might find that it increases creativity as well. Blue, blue-green, and even a blue-heavy purple are great colors for classroom decorations.
Say hello to a little yellow
If a bright blue brings on feelings of clear skies and clean water, what might yellow be associated with?
Yellow, like red, can be overstimulating if used in abundance. However, it is consistently found to be a positive color that invokes positive motions, especially when compared with dark colors like black and gray.
With all the stimulating properties of red, but without the anxiety, yellow is best used in areas where students need to be active and focused. Consider it as an accent color for calm, blue spaces to add a little positive energy where you need it most.
It’s easy being green
The best for last, many researchers suggest that green is the best color for classrooms. It’s most associated with feelings of balance and mental clarity. This makes sense as lush, green environments are usually found to be calming and inviting.
Just like blue, green has been found to be calming. What’s most interesting about green is not that it reduces anxiety (like blue) but that it balances the stimulating properties of red and yellow with feelings of well-being brought about by blue.
In fact, green has been shown to be great for long term concentration, job satisfaction, and improved intellectual performance.
Harness the benefits of green with decorations—and plants! The benefits of green likely piggy back on our association with nature, and the healthy, spirit lifting properties of nature’s green spaces. Why not include plants in your classroom for cleaner air, fresher mental spaces, and the opportunity for instilling responsibility by taking turns tending to the class plant?
Successful design depends on what you wish to achieve. Reducing anxiety and increasing feelings of well-being can’t be a bad thing when it comes to education; but don’t think you have to depend on just a few colors.
What’s important when it comes to colors in a classroom is to realize that no color is neutral. Tailor your environment to the needs of your students. Remember, bright colors wake students up and dark colors calm them down.