What every teacher needs to know about… classroom display

//What every teacher needs to know about… classroom display

Once again the finest monthly publication for secondary teachers, Teach Secondary, have demeaned themselves by publishing another of my sloppily put together rants. This month my barrel scraping has reached a new as I quibble about such harmless trivia as teachers putting up posters. Sorry. 

The firmly established, yet largely unexamined, position on classroom display is that there’s nothing quite so magical as a classroom plastered in beautiful display work and nothing half so bleak as a bare wall devoid of all humanity and joy. A good teacher will, as a matter of course, strive not only to fill every inch of wall space with exciting display, but also seek to refresh this display as often as possible to ensure their eager charges always have something new and shiny to occupy their attention.

The first and most obvious counter-argument is that putting up all this display takes time. Sadly, it’s not going to put itself up and, while a few schools employ support staff to ensure their walls are a thing of beauty, in most cases it’s the classroom teacher who’s saddled with juggling the staple gun, acres of sugar paper and a roll of crinkly cardboard edging. Time spent gluing things to walls is time which cannot be spent on any other activity. There may be some teachers with nothing else to do, but most of us are expected to plan lessons, mark books, phone parents and, um… teach. In order for classroom display to be worth the effort it should have some merit beyond the purely aesthetic.

But does it? The display in most classrooms consists of a mixture of the following: 1) decorative or inspirational posters, 2) useful information such as subject specific keywords, mathematical facts, quotations and formula and 3) students’ work. Let’s examine the value of each in turn.

Firstly the poster or inspirational quote. You might think slapping up a job lot of off-the-shelf classroom posters would save a lot of time and trouble as well as looking lovely and you’d be half right – it would save time sourcing them yourself but to what end? Why would you want to plaster your walls with bland, meaningless platitudes? Be your best! Failure is good! Four legs growth, two legs fixed! At best this stuff is just wall paper which no one notices after the first fun-packed five minutes, but this stuff can actually end up having a toxic effect on kids: instead of believing they’re stupid, they end up believing that failing to swallow this nonsense means they have, horror of horrors, a fixed mindset and are inveterately lazy toads.

So, what about the kind of display that actually tells students something useful about the subject they’re meant to be studying? Surely that’s worth the effort of breaking out the blu-tac? You know the type of thing: lists of French verbs, the formula for finding the circumference of a circle, sentence starters to help you write a corking history essay. My problem with this stuff is that if kids notice it at all, they become dependent on it. Next time you’re in a classroom decked out in this stuff watch what happens when students are asked to do some work. Instead of having their heads down as they write and occasionally closing their eyes in concentration, they look for the answers on the wall. They rely on external resources instead of internalising the information they need to succeed. We put up the display as a statement that these things are worth remembering and then leave them up so there’s no need to remember them. This type of display is like a Sat-Nav, constantly showing us where to go and never asking us to think or puzzle out the route. It’s not so much that this kind of scaffolding is bad, it’s that it’s mis-used. Instead of leaving it up as permanent display we should be taking it down as soon as possible. We should warn students it’ll be taken away so that they’re motivated to try to remember it. If they’re struggling to much we should put it back for a while, but, as I’ve found to my cost, it’s a thoroughly tedious business to be continually putting up and taking down the same set of posters. Much better, perhaps, to use laminated table-mats which can be easily swapped out and replaced.

Finally, we have displays of students’ work. If, gun to my head, I had to choose something to put up on my classroom wall, this would be it. But even this most benign of display comes with costs and problems. First there’s the dilemma of whose work to put up. Should we just select the neatly coloured in bubble writing of the cleanest, most middle-class girls? Or should that scruffy lad who’s smeared a dead spider across his work of staggering genius be allowed a turn? Should students’ work be displayed to look nice or to demonstrate what’s possible? Should it be the best and therefore demotivating for some, or should it show what even ‘these kids’ are capable of? Ideally perhaps it should be mix? The second problem comes once you’ve made your selection – what do you do with it once it’s on the wall? Often it’s too small or messy to be of any actual use as exemplar material (far better to use a visualiser) so it ends up being a mere sop of children’s feeling; a prop to their fragile egos: Look! I’ve put your illiterate scrawl on the wall! You must be special!

I’ve certainly got nothing against classrooms looking nice, but the point of all this is to suggest that while there may sometimes be adequate reasons for all the effort that’s put into decorating classrooms, most times the point is merely that: decoration. (And, if you see Oliver Caviglioli’s comment below it’s a rare display that even manages not to look rubbish!) Display will, at most, have a neutral effect on children’s effort and outcomes and there’s some reason for think it could have negative effects. The important thing to remember though is that classroom display isn’t really for children at all. It’s to make teachers look and feel good. As long as classrooms look nice for senior leaders when they do their termly rounds, everyone’s happy.

2016-05-26T21:13:45+00:00May 26th, 2016|Featured|

45 Comments

  1. olivercaviglioli May 26, 2016 at 10:42 am - Reply

    Great article, making points that needed to be made. Just one missing point I think. Displays do not look wonderful. They look dreadful; examples of teachers having no knowledge about aesthetic (proportions etc) nor communication strategies, let alone typography and layout. They tend to be examples of low taste, kitsch sensibilities.

    Garr Reynolds (zen presentation) recommends looking at how IKEA do it. Their displays are like billboards with loads of white space, a single large graphic and simple but large lettering expressing a direct message. All the very opposite of what you see in schools.

    I think they are a disgrace. Schools would do well to learn from museums to see how they do it. Or, failing that, from good practice in autistic schools that understand the value of bare walls.

    • David Didau May 26, 2016 at 11:40 am - Reply

      Thanks Oliver – I’ve included a reference to this comment in the main body of the post.

      • olivercaviglioli May 26, 2016 at 1:09 pm - Reply

        It’s down to knowledge again. Teachers have somewhere between none and little with regards to displays. Oh plenty of beliefs and customs, for sure, but they’re based on nothing much more than sub GCSE Art.

  2. Mary Leonard May 26, 2016 at 10:48 am - Reply

    Brilliant – love it – so nice to see it in writing! With a change in management next term we have been promised an extra inset day off purely to sort out displays across the school – hows that for educationally valuable time spent!!

  3. Carol May 26, 2016 at 11:23 am - Reply

    My approach to classroom wall displays. In response to @learningspy ‘s blog post today carolslearningcurve.com/2016/05/26/my-…

    • David Didau May 26, 2016 at 11:42 am - Reply

      Hi Carol – I’m not sure whether this is intended to refute or support my post. For what it’s worth the minimal effort approach is definitely better than wasting hours on perfectionism.

      • Carol May 26, 2016 at 11:59 am - Reply

        I guess it’s just discussion to flesh around the topic a bit more. Neither refutation nor support. Just another petson’s opinion and approach. I agree with working smarter not harder, and that workload issues are huge. This is just another way. Students don’t have exercise books in my class, just folders with work and feedback shoved in, which stuff put on walls for reflection then adds to. I love the creative side to what I do when I do displays. It’s part of job satisfaction. But it’s not a priority and I wouldn’t be prescriptive to others to say they had to do it or not.

        • David Didau May 26, 2016 at 2:44 pm - Reply

          I wouldn’t proscribe either. But in most, or at least many, institutions teachers are forced to put up display.

          • Carol May 27, 2016 at 10:44 am

            If budgets and support staff allow then I think there’s an argument for any basic needs being put up by non teaching staff. Anything to do with the use of the teaching and learning environment in a teacher’s base room (if they have one) should be at the discretion of the teacher in line with the ofsted allowance that methods aren’t dictated etc. But perhaps as part of teacher standards and professionalism there should be expectations for health and safety, tidy and clean. As a bare minimum.

  4. Bec Tulloch May 26, 2016 at 11:26 am - Reply

    My brother is a Maths teacher and visited Finland to observe some teaching on an exchange program, whilst there he noted that there was only ever one wall where things were projected and that the rest of the classroom was a calm beige. On asking about this, he was told that it gave a single point of focus for teachers and for students.

    On the return visit to England, he took the teacher up to his classroom (displays, things dangling on string from the ceiling, written on windows) and suddenly saw that his room looked like it had ADHD. He was crying with laughter as he told me and removed much of it as soon as he could.

    I use displays of collaborative work in the first stage of modelling and then group modelling (through collaborative writing) the different approaches to the two different styles of coursework we have in drama. They rarely stay up beyond the lesson, are screen captured and shared on the group WIKI as a resource, but… I most teach in a theatre!!

  5. Arthur Rubin May 26, 2016 at 6:51 pm - Reply

    NAILED IT! Again. Thanks David. The SYSTEM is soooo broken, that only starting with a totally new design can possibly fix education. A disruptive approach! If only there was the political will.

  6. mrlock May 26, 2016 at 7:51 pm - Reply

    What about the information on wall displays that when covered (eg in a test), and the pupil is asked that question, they look where it was and remember the information.

    Is this just them thinking it’s because it was there they can remember it and they would have remembered it if it had never been there and they hadn’t repeatedly used it? This seems to work with my daughter (5) times tables at the moment, and she seems to be learning them from the wall and then looks at the same part of the wall when I cover them. And does this work in the classroom?

    Has the fact that the display was ever there helped them?

    It appears to have, and intuitively the teacher and pupil both think it has.

    I accept that it may not have, but is there any evidence?

    Other than that question, very good.

    • David Didau May 26, 2016 at 9:23 pm - Reply

      I definitely think displays can work to help embed memory – I kinda address this my post:

      This type of display is like a Sat-Nav, constantly showing us where to go and never asking us to think or puzzle out the route. It’s not so much that this kind of scaffolding is bad, it’s that it’s mis-used. Instead of leaving it up as permanent display we should be taking it down as soon as possible. We should warn students it’ll be taken away so that they’re motivated to try to remember it. If they’re struggling to much we should put it back for a while, but, as I’ve found to my cost, it’s a thoroughly tedious business to be continually putting up and taking down the same set of posters. Much better, perhaps, to use laminated table-mats which can be easily swapped out and replaced.

  7. physicsmad May 26, 2016 at 8:31 pm - Reply

    I once went to a meeting held in a lab in another school. One wall was floor to ceiling cupboards, another the windows. There was an IWB in the centre of the wall opposite the cupboards. The other wall and the wall-space either side of the IWB was painted in whiteboard paint (floor to ceiling). There was workings and notes around the entire room. There were a couple of posters up on the cupboard doors and a couple of notices up near the door. It seemed to me, in that 1 hour meeting, that that room would make a great learning space.

  8. Claire Allen May 26, 2016 at 8:34 pm - Reply

    I’ll be honest in that I keep my displays bright and cheerful for me. At the end of the day as a teacher I spend more time in my classroom than I do my own lounge at home so I want to be in an inspiring, comfortable place. The kids come and go and may occasionally glance at one of the posters I’ve put up or read one of the quotes, if so a bonus but it is mainly to make my working environment a pleasant one!

    • David Didau May 26, 2016 at 9:26 pm - Reply

      Thanks Claire, that’s an interesting point. I’m guessing (although I might be wrong) that you decorate your classroom differently to the way you decorate your home. Why is it that we what classrooms to be “bright and cheerful” but recoil in horror at the thought of the same design scheme in our bedrooms? And why is it that in no other profession would anyone consider a pleasant working environment to be decorated in anyway like a classroom?

      • Carol May 27, 2016 at 10:48 am - Reply

        This made me go back in time to my experience as a child… I felt that busy and decorated, colourful spaces were often warm and inviting and put me at ease and made me feel happy.
        As the case for most of my school experiences in primary.
        By contrast, if I was ever in a place with white walls, starchy, clinical environment I felt cold, on edge, unwelcome and far less happy.

        • Carol May 27, 2016 at 10:50 am - Reply

          My student accommodation in halls of residence was wall to wall floor to ceiling posters by the way.

  9. CJ Edwards May 27, 2016 at 1:20 pm - Reply

    My attitude towards displays changed the moment I was invited as a parent to look around my eight yr old son’s primary school. It became quickly evident that even though the walls were covered with children’s work, the teacher had not displayed his. ” I told you I was invisible,” he muttered. (I looked in his tray and discovered a fantastic computer design of a cut away section of an Egyptian pyramid, very similar to the ones on the wall.) I think displays can have a powerful effect on self esteem. Perhaps Finland are playing safe.

  10. Jude Hunton May 27, 2016 at 1:29 pm - Reply

    Hi David, I think that you’ve picked an interesting topic as ever! Displays are a real itch aren’t they and a bit like where your writing about marking / EEF leads – why on earth do we do these things?

    At my school in my English department we secured a few hundred pounds additional funding to install “teacher” whiteboards around the walls in our classrooms. This has meant that we have more options in our approach to many things; I’ve found that recall / retrieval works nicely this way, as does analysis of quotations and then small written tasks because the room can offer feedback more quickly / effectively.

    And of course it settled the displays debate because now we have no space to put things up! Except for the ceilings…

  11. Lee Hutchinson (@leehutchinson) May 28, 2016 at 7:14 am - Reply

    Great article, David! I agree with what both you and Oliver have been saying. As someone who works in museums, it was reassuring to read Oliver’s comment, ‘Schools would do well to learn from museums’. The use of text and graphics in displays are part of a communication process that’s known in the heritage sector as ‘interpretation’. During my museum training, I was recommended one book above all on interpretation and that was Sam Ham’s ‘Environmental Interpretation: A Practical Guide for People with Big Ideas and Small Budgets’ https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/608854.Environmental_Interpretation (big ideas/small budgets… familiar territory?). It was originally intended as a guide for people implementing outdoor education programmes in the US – in forests, parks and zoos etc, and it does look a little dated these days, but the basic principles of display layout and design that Ham outlined still hold true and apply equally to indoor locations. I would honestly say that it transformed how I looked at and worked on displays – it also helped me to step out of what I came to realize was a self-centred way of thinking. I can’t recommend it enough. Then again, I appreciate what you said about teachers not having any hours in the day to focus on this – strictly for leisure of course! (if you have any of that left?). For what it’s worth, my own approach would be: make use of white space (don’t knock it), resist the temptation to fill the wall (in the mistaken notion that more text = more learning) and try to avoid turning classrooms into ‘permanent exhibition’ spaces – like you said, regular change will keep the students engaged.

  12. […] couple of days ago I posted an article exploring why I’m not keen on teaching being expected to spend time putting on disp…. This made some people happy but a few people were sad  . One criticism was that some […]

  13. Lucy Arekhi May 29, 2016 at 10:52 am - Reply

    This is a really interesting topic and as an NQT something I have been thinking about. I have been in some really bare walled classrooms during my PGCE and have always found it refreshing to go into a classroom that did have a wall display!

    But I never considered it in terms of whether the displays enhanced the teaching or made it more ‘effective’.

    I am a very creative, crafty person so could easily spend a large amount of time creating beautiful wall displays but whether they are educationally valuable is another matter and something I need to think about.

    But on another level, a more human level what is actually wrong with making a classroom into a nicer environment? Somewhere that students want to be, that they feel comfortable in and valued.

    This reminds me of when primary schools ask parents to bring in old rubbish (you know like cartons, cereal boxes and toilet rolls etc) for the children to make things out of. Then the children bring their creations of rubbish home and they really are just that but on a larger stuck together scale. Which is ashame as learning to create something meaningful and potentially beautiful out of rubbish is an art in itself and is a useful skill to have.

    But that’s just it, if we use or consider resources to be rubbish then often the end result is considered to be rubbish as well. Working in curriculums which are increasingly squashed and narrowed to only offering STEM subjects and excluding everything that gives room for any expression , wall displays could offer students a lot more than just being an ‘effective’ memory aid.

    I know time is an issue so why not get students involved in creating and making resourceful wall displays?

    I personally do not believe that laminated table mats can offer the same or better than wall displays that have been done well. Yes maybe it might be more ‘effective’ in helping students past tests but to me a good wall display can offer so much more, it can add a richness of information and resources and if nothing else wall displays can say to students ‘hey guys I value you enough to display your work on the walls and I value you enough to make the space you are learning in comfortable, inclusive and meaningful to you’.

  14. Joanna Kurlbaum June 6, 2016 at 12:33 pm - Reply

    How about a learning wall? Or a question wall? Messy, but let’s try making the wall into part of the lesson and something we refer back to. Students write questions and we come back to them during the lesson or in future lessons? Someone is tasked to write on the wall the key points of a lesson, and we’ll come back to it next time to remember them. (could stick post-its on, if they don’t fly away!, or just write on the backing paper. Or even invest in whiteboards to put at the back of the room as well as the front? Or if easier, get kids to write their thoughts/learnng/questions on flipchart paper and stick that up to refer to next time.

    Not pretty, not ‘display’, not decoration. But LEARNING.

    • David Didau June 7, 2016 at 3:34 pm - Reply

      I’m not totally against this, but I do think there are some unexamined assumptions in your point. Why do students need to write on the walls for it to be LEARNING? Why can’t they write in their books? Why do they have to write at all? What’s the point of doing it on the walls? I think the assumption might be that asking students to wander round with post its is ‘active’ while sitting down at your desk is ‘passive’. We sometimes fall into the trap of believing that as we can see children walking around, we can somehow see learning. We can’t. All we can see is their current performance which may or may not result in learning that is retained and can be transferred.

      One possible reason for this kind of public writing might be to get students to read each others’ work. This has merit but I think can be better managed with a visualiser. They’re probably cheaper than all the extra white boards too 🙂

      • Carol June 7, 2016 at 5:51 pm - Reply

        Sometimes it’s good to mix things up a bit and get students out of seats. Movement occasionally is a good thing. And it’s also fun to write on walls and windows and build confidence in front of peers 🙂 imho

        • David Didau June 7, 2016 at 7:01 pm - Reply

          Lots of things are fun. And fun is pretty subjective. For every student who enjoys wandering around, maybe there are other who dread it? I’ve nothing against children having fun in lessons but I don’t think fun should ever be the reason for our choices as teachers.

          • Carol June 7, 2016 at 8:27 pm

            Well I thought you might say that 🙂 I read your anti fun blog post a while ago and I did nod a lot. Students don’t have to enjoy a subject to be learning, and likewise they don’t have to be suicidally stuck to their chair and using pen and paper all the time either. I think if we were robots that might work. But we aren’t, are we? I just think once in a blue moon for a change it can brighten things up.
            If some may dread it, why? In FE one of our teaching and learning embedded common core issues is employability, teamwork and communication. Although I did challenge my boss on why I should try to help shy learners overcome their shyness, he did make a good argument:
            https://carolslearningcurve.com/2015/05/19/the-quiet-ones/

            Anyway… It’s not too far away from drama. If they dread moving about the classroom and we aren’t helping with this, are we failing them?

          • David Didau June 7, 2016 at 9:02 pm

            You think we might be failing children by not making them do group work and ‘active’ learning? Shyness and introversion are not at all the same thing. Have you read Susan Cain’s ‘Quiet’?

          • Carol June 7, 2016 at 9:21 pm

            No. To both 🙂
            Active learning shmactive learning. It’s not the point. It’s to stop people being bored off their bottoms in a chair all the time, to prevent DVT, pins and needles, and actually, by distracting them and taking them off a previous task, possibly introduce some desirable difficulties
            I’ll check out the book! Thanks for the recommendation.

          • David Didau June 7, 2016 at 10:47 pm

            During the course of the school day students travel to a variety of different lessons. In some lessons they have to sit, in others they don’t. Designing our lessons so that they get a bit more movement is probably unnecessary.

            And if our lessons are boring, maybe the content is dull? As an English teacher, I find my subject fascinating and am excited to share this with students. Relying on post-its is an apology for being bored ourselves.

          • Carol June 7, 2016 at 10:52 pm

            So it does have to be enjoyable then?

          • David Didau June 8, 2016 at 10:10 am

            By ‘it’ do you mean school, or learning? Anders Ericcson, the deliberate practice guy, suggests that mastery takes effort, concentration and often isn’t enjoyable. Paul Dolan in Happiness by Design suggests we redefine happiness as the intersection of pleasure and purpose – a lot of things which aren’t directly pleasurable do give us a sense of purpose and this might be more useful to cultivate in school. What do you think?

  15. @cazzwebbo June 8, 2016 at 3:15 pm - Reply

    Ok, I need to clarify my most recent context: FE 16-19 year olds, who got a D in school and retake again and again until they get a C. I am definitely on board with the thinking promoted in the texts you cite. In ideal circumstances I’d do something like: exposition, model/demonstrate, check understanding, give time for practice with feedback, reflection, improvement etc. And to be honest that’s mostly what I try to do. The FE setting largely has students who have chosen a vocational route, who see themselves as not academic, and who have mostly become to deeply resent English. Lessons are 3 hours long with only 15 minutes break half way through. Some of my students this year were sports, the others childhood studies. Eventually I won my students over to the process I mention above. I had to smile to myself in the penultimate lesson when I let them do a poster – “can we REALLY???” one sighed in such amazed appreciation. The motivation took a sudden surge. It was actually just a large size version of what they would normally do in their folders/on paper. But I got them to do an AQA Q4 foundation paper presentational feature comparison and use real newspaper and magazine covers and articles to label and describe and compare. In the final lesson, the last one before the exam, I gave a brief outline of the final task: writing excellent paragraphs (I gave a few outlined instructions a bit like your slow writing idea and let them do it). That same girl said: “But it’s the last lesson, aren’t we going to do games or something?” I said I’d rather use the valuable time we had left together to make sure we had tried extra hard they could finally get that C. They acquiesced. If from time to time they get up and wander about for a structured reason – e.g. peer learning/feedback – I support that.

    • David Didau June 8, 2016 at 3:20 pm - Reply

      That all sounds entirely reasonable. Context matters.
      (3 hour lessons?! Bloody hell!)

      • Carol June 8, 2016 at 3:43 pm - Reply

        Exactly. Time tabling is a mare to fit it around vocational subject delivery and external placements, while bringing students from various curriculum areas together to do so that are normally timetabled separately. Having said that, while on supply a few years ago in a high school it seemed common practice to schedule a full day of back to back English for year 10 and 11?

  16. Dylan June 13, 2016 at 11:14 am - Reply

    In defence of decoration…

    I would suggest that, if a well-decorated room serves only to increase teacher and class morale, this may be worthwhile. Obviously, aesthetics are personal, but if the decoration pleases the teacher alone this may still be worthwhile. A happy teacher is a better teacher.

    Perhaps it is a matter of outlook. Personally, I find the spartan, nameless and faceless classroom-office at best uninspiring and often deeply depressing. Even if we employ decoration for decoration’s sake: does this not demonstrate positive values? Artistry? A pride in one’s workplace? A sense that we can all, with a little effort/imagination, make small and positive changes to our life and environment?

    Apologies if this seems lofty. A more critical tack:

    “Display will, at most, have a neutral effect on children’s effort and outcomes and there’s some reason for think it could have negative effects.”

    This seems like conjecture. Citation?

    • David Didau June 13, 2016 at 11:29 am - Reply

      I don’t really give a monkeys if teachers feel moved to slap up stuff on their classroom walls. What I really object to is that this is often mandated by school leaders. Neither am I advocating classrooms that are “spartan, nameless and faceless”. That is a straw man argument.

      No direct research on the negative effects of classroom display on learning as far as I’m aware – this is an inference from the well-researched field of the effect of retrieval cues in forming context dependent memory. If you’re interested, here are a few references for you to wade through:

      Barnett, S. M., & Ceci, S. J. (2002). When and where do we apply what we learn? A taxonomy for far transfer. Psychological Bulletin, 128, 612-637.

      Bjork, R. A. (1994) Memory and Metamemory consideration in the training of human beings. In J Metcalfe and A. Shimamura (Eds.), Metacognition: Knowing About Knowing (pp. 185-205). Cambridge, MA : MIT Press

      Bransford, J. D., Brown, A. L., & Cocking, R. (Eds). (2000). How people learn. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

      Roediger, H. L., & Karpicke, J. D. (2006). The power of testing memory: Basic research and implications for educational practice. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 1, 181-210.

      Smith, S. M., Glenberg, A., & Bjork, R. A. (1978). Environmental context and human memory. Memory & Cognition, 6, 342–353. Smith, S. M., Handy, J., & A

      The last of these is especially relevant. Let me know how you get on.

      • Dylan June 13, 2016 at 3:19 pm - Reply

        I didn’t mean to suggest that was what you are advocating – more my annoyance at the general trend towards businessification of school.

        Your final paragraph (mostly) resonates with me, and I would certainly agree that no teacher should be compelled. But there are surely positive aspects to wall displays that mustn’t be overlooked – fostering a sense of community, allowing students to feel involved, become invested in the space, etc. A bit wishy washy maybe (and conjecture myself), but I feel certain that these are the types of things that must benefit pupils in a wider sense.

        Cheers for the reading material.

        • David Didau June 13, 2016 at 3:22 pm - Reply

          I guess that’s really my point: just because we feel certain practices *must* benefit students, we go ahead and spend time on them. We rely on our intuitions and don’t investigate the evidence. I’m not claiming to be right about anything in particular – just that we shouldn’t rely on what we *think* is effective without some corroboration.

  17. […] the physical environment with helpful reminders and motivational quotes, then – as I explain here – it’s probably not a good idea. If it means creating an environment where children are […]

  18. […] (2016) What every teacher needs to know about… classroom display. Available at: https://www.learningspy.co.uk/featured/every-teacher-needs-know-classroom-display/ (Accessed March […]

  19. Stephanie June 27, 2018 at 5:09 pm - Reply

    Late to the conversation here – but I completely agree. I found this article when looking into how to decorate my classroom this year (new NQT) when my gut instinct is not to! I think not decorating at all might be a step too far, but I’m definitely going with a minimal approach to avoid distraction, the ‘IKEA’ style sounds perfect for me.
    I attended a talk a few months ago where Craig Barton spoke and presented his case to ‘Ban All Displays’ – he gave some very compelling reasons linked to cognitive load theory and the ‘redundancy effect’, suggesting that too much information can definitely have a negative effect on students. His reasoning is summed up well here for anyone interested: http://www.sec-ed.co.uk/best-practice/why-we-should-ban-all-displays-in-the-classroom/
    I’ve certainly felt the ‘overload’ myself when observing other teachers teach in brightly decorated, dare I say, cluttered classrooms. Glancing away from the teacher or board I find myself no longer concentrating, wondering why those cards are strung along the bottom, when he might take his Christmas decorations down, or responding to motivational posters in my head – where do I want to be a year from today?! Even those things seemingly ‘relevant’ to learning (such as terminology or key facts) are not always relevant and can cause distraction. My plan -keep it minimal and keep it at the back!!

  20. […] What every teacher needs to know about… classroom display […]

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