Lavishly decorated classroom walls may lead to less learning, warn Carnegie Mellon researchers. Kids are easily distracted.
Don’t tear down all the posters, responds Dan Willingham. Students may get used to decorated walls and be less distracted.
In the study, students in a classroom-like lab listened to six read-alouds on science topics (e.g., volcanoes, the solar system) in groups. Afterwards, children answered six questions about the lesson. The walls were either bare or very decorated.
“Kids spent a greater percentage of time looking away from the teacher in the decorated classroom (38 percent of the time vs. 28 percent of the time). And kids in the decorated classroom scored lower on the assessment (42 percent vs. 55 percent).”
Even if students don’t become habituated to classroom decorations, there could be a high cost to bare walls, writes Willingham. Teachers decorate to create in inviting social environment. It may be more difficult to build a sense of classroom community in a sterile environment.
Creating (and equipping) a bright, cheerful, welcoming elementary classroom isn’t easy, writes a teacher. “Teachers spend many hours finding ideas for organizing and decorating classrooms.”