What is the optimal classroom environment for students? Why not ask them? Designing Classrooms for Learning reports on a project that included student opinions about classroom design for learning about science. The project included a survey where students compared their “ideal” design with current design.
The study concludes that lighting, desk layout, places to put belongings and the layout of materials in the classroom all have an effect on student learning. “Student morale and learning can be affected greatly by the physical structure of the classroom, and that the involvement of students in the environment creating process can increase their motivation as well as empower them and develop a sense of community”.
According to the findings, something as simple as desk layout can make a big difference. Most teachers of adults have known this for some time. They take the time to rearrange rows of previously aligned tables and chairs into circular layout or into small group layout.
Given that every student learns differently, instructors need to provide multiple avenues for learning. This links with the theory of humans having different intelligences. You can read more on education, learning and universal design for learning, on this website.