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Wall decorations 'could stop children learning'

29/05/2014 Kelly
A new study has revealed children could be distracted by elaborate wall displays in classrooms.

Classrooms up and down the country will be filled with colourful drawings, maps and other items hung up on walls. According to the research, however, this could be hampering their ability to concentrate and follow teachers' instructions during lessons.

The study has been published in the journal Psychological Science. Its findings suggest that clearer, sparser walls are more conducive to maintaining a healthy learning environment. Children educated in such classrooms performed better than counterparts in more traditional environments, spending more time 'on task' and achieving higher test scores.

Anna Fisher, associate professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon, who led the study, said: "Young children spend a lot of time - usually the whole day - in the same classroom and we've shown a classroom's visual environment can affect how much children learn."

The researchers taught 24 children in laboratory classrooms for six introductory science lessons on unfamiliar topics.

Three lessons were taught in a heavily decorated classroom and three were given in more sparse surroundings.

Children learned the material in both types of classroom, but teaching was more effective in the sparsely decorated environments.

When the youngsters were tested, those educated in such surroundings were able to answer 55 per cent of questions accurately. This contrasts with a score of 42 per cent for the heavily decorated classrooms.

Off-task behaviour was also higher in the decorated environment than in the room without decorations.

Professor Fisher said the study does not provide the answer to all education problems and further research is needed into the effect of visual environments on children's learning.

"I would suggest that instead of removing all decorations, teachers should consider whether some of their visual displays may be distracting to young children," she added.

Karrie Godwin, the report's co-author, said the researchers were also keen to find out whether children's attention shifts to other distractions - such as talking to their peers - when displays are removed.

Posted by Charlotte MichaelsADNFCR-2164-ID-801723970-ADNFCR
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