How Have School Layouts Evolved

Do you know that 25% of your student’s learning ability can be enhanced with a well-designed learning environment?

Schools are the center of all learning for children. It’s a well-known fact that students spend more time at school than they do at home, most of their learning takes place while at school. It should come as no shocker that their school environment plays a role in encouraging and supporting their development. So much so that a well-designed environment will actually affect their learning abilities.


A child’s school environment plays a role in their learning experience, from their school layout, the materials used for the flooring, walls, play areas, even the corridors, and outdoors. Each of these elements has a role to play in what molds and shapes their minds. With school layouts, often the only image that comes to mind is that of the cells and bells model (a central corridor with uniformly sized classrooms on one or both sides). However, layouts have evolved and can introduce more learning opportunities for kids that not only stimulate but also increase their learning abilities.

Redesigning schools goes beyond only making certain changes within a classroom, but making use of every inch of unused space all around the campus to create an impactful learning environment. The traditional cells and bells model functions on the principle that for one activity to begin, another one must stop and that learning is largely directed by teachers. Instead, these new well-designed and thought-out models are catalysts for pedagogical change because they include features like reading nooks, activity areas, and art exhibits even outside the classroom. As Steve Jobs in his Stanford Commencement speech mentioned, if he hadn’t noticed the posters on display and labels on every drawer all around his campus done in hand calligraphy and then taken their calligraphy class, our computers wouldn’t have the wonderful typography they do.

How have school layouts evolved?

The goal for us is not just to build aesthetic spaces that lack functionality, but to make use of architectural design to take a step away from conventional structures and build spaces that have an impact on learning. These layouts facilitate student-centered learning in various methods, making even corridor spaces promote development, creativity, and collaboration.

Consider leaving the cells and bells floor plan in the past with the hope to improve students’ learning experience, what are the new models that have emerged?

A Look into different models and their specific features:
Cells and Bells Model

One of the traditional models of school layouts, where there is a central corridor with uniformly sized classrooms on one or both sides of it. Often and most popularly, this concept is seen in prisons.

Cells and Bells model
Learning Street

This model of school design makes full use of every inch of common areas, to promote student centered learning by creating spaces for student interaction to take place, for informal meetings and project based learning through activities, etc…

Riverstone International School (Designed by The School Designs Studio)


This model of school design allows for two or more teachers to “team-teach” and collaborate together, which helps to increase the range of teaching and modality of learning

Finger Plan

This model of school design is where classrooms (6-8) are separated into small clusters, each with its own unique identity and amenities. All clusters lead to a central common area that can be accessed by all students and can be made to function as a learning street.


“Change is the end result of all true learning.”- Leo Buscaglia

We are already aware that school layouts have a dramatic impact on how students engage, converse, and the different modalities of learning that are possible. By improving spaces to maximize the learning experience using architectural design, we encourage autonomy, tactile and sensory exploration, and chances to reward child-child interaction. So instead of opting or continuing to have traditional models like the cells and bells one, which can create sentiments of confinement for your kids, why not consider reaping these benefits that come along with having a contemporary school design?

Ultimately, having an impactful environment can promote creativity, increase efficiency, stimulate productivity, and encourage learning through multiple modalities for your kids. This is why we at The School Designs Studio have these innovative models to instill an environment that is engaging and offers opportunities for student-based learning to take place. So, like many inspiring educators who have already made a difference, let’s build only the best for our kids by starting with reshaping their learning environment. Investing in educational design is a step to investing in the future.

Nair, P., & Fielding, R. (2007). The language of school design: Design patterns for 21st century schools. Minneapolis, Minn.: DesignShare.

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