Preventative Design 3

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For the few days prior to welcoming new learners, facilitators turn their attention to setting up classrooms and learning spaces. According to a recent conversation on A-Z Teacher Stuff Forum, individuals asked the question, ‘How long do I need to set up my classroom?’ and ‘What resources will I need to set up my classroom?’ Throughout this forum discussion, individuals conversed about commute time, furniture availability, grade band, professional development days, building walkthroughs etc. A few statements from the forum read as follows:

“…your curriculum, routines, and classroom management are priorities. You can start the year with bare walls and put up some ‘under construction’ signs. Your students won’t mind.”

“Our work days before students come back are always packed with PD. We rarely get time in our classrooms at all. We’re lucky if we can get an hour or two in total.”

“I find it’s easy to get caught up on planning the classroom and forget about planning curriculum, so do both in tandem. Think about your curriculum and the routines you want to establish.”


The comments and advice continue for thousands of comments. Less than 3% of comments include advice which take into consideration learners themselves, or voice the importance of the layout of space. The same is true for additional forums such as: ProTeacher Community and Quora. The United Federation of Teachers: a Union of Professionals, includes one statement on their webpage for classroom set up. The statement reads:

Teachers need sufficient time to prepare their classrooms, which is usually at least half a day.

The National Council on Teacher Quality released an article on January 12th, 2023 entitled, ‘Planning Time Might Help Mitigate Teacher Burnout – But How Much Planning Time Do Teachers Get?’

Increased planning time in conjunction with increased environmental awareness are two plausible efforts which must be implemented throughout professional development and professional growth sessions and must remain a focus throughout the academic year. Why?
Updated research on the Limbic System, emphasized by Nature Neuroscience, discusses ‘Integrated cardio-behavioral responses to threat define defensive states’. This research highlights that new processes of studying neural pathways may ‘serve as the basis for a comprehensive understanding of complex neuronal mechanisms underlying aversive emotions such as fear and anxiety’. Coupling these findings with Sage Journal’s literature review, ‘Emotional Responses to Multisensory Environmental Stimuli’ solidify the scientific understanding and acceptance of the effect a learning environment can have on its learners.


The layout and design of a learning space may trigger an individual’s positive or negative physiological responses such as activation of the Limbic System’s communication – specifically, perceived threats and engagement of defensive behavior.

Introducing learner-centered, research-based pieces into educational spaces increases learner agency and eases the pressure in ‘preparing a classroom’. Pieces should easily adapt regardless of curricular scope-and-sequence, learner age, school culture, cognitive or social needs etc. They should also enhance experiences and boost creativity and comprehension. Holistically impacting individuals and propelling their learning adventure well beyond structured school. NorvaNivel is continuously working to bring together the world of professional development, educational design, and learner/facilitator outcomes.

Check out NorvaNivel’s Guidebook to see how this collision of neuroscience, development, and design are integrated. Request information on NorvaNivel’s Case Study and Pilot Programming by sending an email to