Module 1: Creating a Community of Learners

Diversity and Classroom Management:

Building a Physical Space for Learning


The physical environment can play a big role in enhancing or impeding students' learning. Think about the following components of your space and how you can use them to your advantage.

Desk Placement

The way your classroom furniture is arranged has an effect on learning. Desks in a U-shape are conducive to full-class discussion, and small groups of desks clustered together allow students to work in teams or discuss ideas informally with their neighbors. Consider moving desks around occasionally to prevent students from always sitting near, and interacting with, the same classmates. Keep in mind that students who are hearing- or visually impaired may need to sit closer to the front of the room. Make sure that any handicapped students will be accommodated in your class and in any labs.


Your classroom will probably be equipped with a chalkboard or whiteboard, and perhaps a computer projector or video screen. If you are going to use visual aids, it's a good idea to walk around the room beforehand and make sure that images on the board or screen are visible from every desk. Make sure the equipment is in working order before you begin your lesson to avoid frustration and lost time.

Ask instructional technology support staff to introduce you to the equipment; many colleges have sophisticated presentation systems, such as "smart classrooms." Always have a "Plan B" in case the equipment unexpectedly breaks down during class. Many a class hour has been lost when a bulb blew in a projector and the instructor had no alternate way to share information.

Classroom Schedule and Availability

If your room is not being used immediately before or after your class, arrive a few minutes early and greet students as they enter the classroom. Try to stay a few minutes after class ends as well, so that you are available for students who have questions or comments on classroom material, homework assignments, or grades.

Temperature, Lighting, and Noise Level

These factors are not always noticeable in the classroom—unless there's a problem—but they can have a significant impact on learning. If something is not working, talk to your administration to get the problem fixed as quickly as possible.


Are the desks and chairs adequate for the students in your classroom? In some cases, larger students or handicapped students may not fit into the desks and chairs in your room. Make sure there is a place in your room for these students to learn comfortably.

Easels, Posters, and Flip Charts

Consider providing flip chart pages (preferably the type that will self-stick to a wall) for students to record their ideas when working in teams. The pages can be used for sharing ideas with the entire class, and they can be rolled up and saved for reuse in a later class. A flip chart tablet or pages promote shared ownership of work for the student teams over time and provides continuity between classes.