Four Rooms of Change

What Are The Four Rooms

Four Rooms of Change Origins
The first school in the world to implement the program was the Vasaskolan in Strangnas, Sweden, where Ulla Janssen worked. Ulla's success with the program in the year 2000 led to its expansion accross Vasaskolan school and eventually to other schools across Scandinavia.


The program came to Australia in 2010 when a group of school leaders were invited to a two-day workshop conducted by Bengt Lindstrom and Drusilla Copeland from A&L Partners, Sweden. Four of the schools elected to participate in the pilot project and they were later joined by two other schools for the March 2011 commencement of the program, Point Lonsdale Primary School in Victoria was one of these six schools.


Each of the six schools made a commitment to training teachers, participating in ongoing teacher development, enabling student participation in the research project, providing access to control groups, and a substantial financial contribution to fund the pilot project.


Four Rooms of Change Program
For a school environment there are primarily two dimensions to the Four Rooms Program:

  • Staff Development – using the program to work to build staff cohesion, to work to build a common language among staff and in particular to provide staff with insights to assist them in any change process.
  • Student Development – to build social and emotional intelligence among children and thereby reduce anti-social behaviours (bullying) and increase empathy and group efficacy.

Four Rooms of Change is a psychological theory that helps people to understand their emotions and behaviours – particularly in the context of change – and helps them to manage their experiences by taking responsibility for their emotions and actions. At its simplest level the theory says that there are four frames of mind that we all experience. Using his decades of research Claes Janssen has developed a theory about how we move from one state of mind to the next and of the behaviours that we are likely to display when we are under pressure – such as when we experience change.


The Four Rooms are:

         1.      Contentment
         3.      Inspiration
         2.      Self-Censorship
         4.      Confusion



How We Use The 4 Rooms

"In a grade 3/4 classroom one student placed his name in the Room of Confusion prior to class for almost a week. His peers were very concerned and each day sought him out to check in with him to ensure he was included and desperately tried to take his mind off his worries both within the class and outside. Ultimately they wanted school to be a happy and safe place for him and a refuge for the tough issues being dealt with at home. One peer spoke to the teacher about their collective concerns and all worked to support him. Each day he was able to move to the room of Contentment because he felt supported." - Fay Agterhuis, Principal, Point Lonsdale Primary School


Working with children in the classroom
The program seeks to help children understand their experiences, their emotions and feelings; the emotions and feelings of others; how these can change; and the impact their behaviours and words have on others. It provides a common language for a classroom group to describe feelings, emotions and behaviours.


The Faces
There are four faces that represent the Four Rooms, originally developed by IKEA in Sweden, they are central to the creation of a vocabulary of words about emotions and behaviours.


Magnets and Whiteboards
Central to the experience of children using the Four Rooms of Change is the ability to articulate their feelings and emotions. This is done with children as young as Prep, by using a magnet (with their name or face on it) and allowing them to place it on a magnetic whiteboard where the Four Rooms are displayed in a way that reflects their experience.


The Four Rooms of Change gives a context for whole school based discussions e.g. a group of students with their names in the room of Confusion may request the teacher to go through a strategy with them to assist them to solve their problem, or the teacher may notice and touch base to see what is concerning them, or peer mediators may respond. 


Teachers and the Four Rooms
Most importantly The Four Rooms of Change is a reflective tool for teachers. The Rooms operate as a form of classroom barometer. No words or intense dialogue is required to gather feedback from the students. What are the magnets telling me? What do I/we need to do?


Effective teachers use the Rooms and monitor movement patterns of the magnets to see where children are placing themselves throughout the day and which students move or don't move. In this way the Four Rooms program can highlight issues around curriculum delivery e.g. a group of students in Self-Censorship or Confusion may well suggest that there was a problem with the lesson clarity or there is a social/emotional issue at play.