gray old couch in the classroom
Inside the Classroom

The Value of an Old Couch in the Classroom

Over the years, researchers have studied the impact a positive climate has on school effectiveness—from providing a safe place to learn, to offering a space for student collaboration.

A study by Robert Marzano on school effectiveness states that a lead indicator is a learning environment in which staff and students not only feel safe, but experience order. And Larry Lezotte’s research says classrooms should be learner-centered and collaboration should be the norm. The National Dropout Prevention Center/Network states, “A safe learning environment is focused on academic achievement, maintaining high standards, fostering positive relationships between staff and students, and encouraging parental and community involvement.”

So now that you know what makes schools most effective, how can you put those principles into practice in your classroom?

Create a space that is inviting and pleasant.

Warm and Inviting Classroom

It is not only important to have a safe and orderly environment for online learning; it is also important to create a space that is inviting and pleasant. While we are all used to computer labs with rows, white walls, and bulky desks, it is possible to add color, light, and personality to classrooms.

A bright room filled with a sweet scent engages students.

In my travels, I have seen a number of exemplars. I recently met a teacher who facilitates a credit recovery lab at a Missouri high school. His room is warm and inviting; students are engaged and focused. Textbooks are available for cross reference. Posters and fun signs adorn the walls. I particularly appreciated the couch, and visited with a student taking time out to read. If you do plan to bring any upholstered furniture into your own classroom, be sure it complies with any district or health department guidelines and won’t pose an allergy risk to students.

Another teacher facilitates in a rural alternative school in eastern Texas. Her room is bright and there is a buzz of activity. When I visited her classroom, my nose picked up a sweet scent that brought a big smile to my face. I seldom experience a pleasant smell in a computer lab, even though I’ve read that good smells can increase student engagement!

Motivate students with a drawing for a comfy chair.

Comfy Chair

Notice the comfy chair in this picture. Years ago, a teacher told me she used a comfy chair to celebrate student success. It also served as a motivator, because she held a weekly drawing from a pool of students who were on track to finish courses on time. Students worked a bit harder to get the comfy chair for a few days.

Look around and decorate your own effective learning space.

I encourage you to get creative and spruce up your online learning classroom. Shop at a few garage sales, get in your attic and pull out old paintings, recycle the couch you no longer need, and buy an electric potpourri pot. You and your students will enjoy school more, and you will create an effective learning space.

About the Author


Susan Powell

Susan has an EdD in educational leadership with an emphasis on organizational change and school reform. She has experience with technology, curriculum and instruction, assessment, and program implementation, with a focus in online learning. She is a Strategic Account Manager for Edgenuity and works with large districts, consulting with them about online and blended learning to help districts, schools, and educators better serve their students with the use of technology.