Evidence-based expert: Involve the senses in a learning environment

Staff Development Weekly: Insight on Evidence-Based Practice in Education, February 6, 2009

This week's expert, Polly Gerber Zimmermann, RN, MS, MBA, CEN, identifies ways to create a classroom environment that keeps participants interested.

Q: During my critical thinking classes, participants quickly lose interest. How can I keep them involved?

A: Educators can tend to spend excessive energy on “what” to teach. Just as important is “how” to teach—determining the best way to communicate the information so learning takes place. For example, the classroom environment plays a key role in any educational course. It’s important to create an atmosphere that awakens the participant’s whole brain and senses. Create a learning environment by focusing on the following:

  • Seating: As much as possible, use a half-circle for small groups and a fishbone configuration for larger groups.
  • Color: One study found that visual aids with color and symbols increased long-term retention by 14-38%.
  • Music: Play upbeat music before class, during breaks, and after class. Use lively pop music with a distinct beat you can dance to—it will pump up the energy in the room.
  • Breaks: Take a one-minute break every 25 minutes or so. Turn on the music and encourage general arm stretching, walking around, etc.


    Note: Have a question for our evidence-based experts? Be a part of our new feature by emailing your queries to Editor Cameran Erny at See your name in print and get the answers you’re looking for!


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