tr?id=304425946719474&ev=PageView&noscript=1 Impacts of the Physical Environment on Classroom Learning - Part 3

Inclusive Learning in the Classroom

The height of a classroom’s ceiling can have an effect on both noise and lighting in the classroom. Earthman (2004) explains that higher ceilings can lessen the quality of both classroom lighting and acoustics. Research on the effects of ceiling height on classroom acoustics would be beneficial to school building designers. These designers would no doubt be able to take information regarding ceiling height into account when ensuring rooms have proper acoustics. They might also be able to provide suggestions to districts whose older school buildings have higher ceiling, and who require recommendations on how to improve acoustics despite that.

The display of student works both in the classroom and in common areas of the school has been shown to bring about a positive effect on learning. In a study by Killeen et al. (2003) it is explained that students whose work was displayed in the classroom following the completion of that work showed a revitalized sense of invested interest in the learning process of their classroom. According to Killeen the educational pride students took in contributing to the overall class led to increasingly motivated students. Maxwell’s (2000) study found that schools that displayed student artwork in common areas such as lobby entrances to schools and cafeterias tended to foster an atmosphere that made all feel welcomed. Information regarding the positive effects of common area displays contributed to by students would be beneficial to building administrators who strive to develop a strong sense of school pride. It is also recommended that teachers consider the similarly positive effects when student works are posted in the classroom.

It is so important to display students work throughout the classroom. This  allows student to take ownership of their work, while also making them feel  welcome a…

An added positive effect from the display of student works in the classroom is the possibility of the inclusion of preferable colors into the classroom. Though this aspect of the physical environment of a school tends to be dismissed by adults, children who have been surveyed about their perceptions of their school’s wall colors (and other colors in the school) suggest that color is of importance to them (Engelbrecht, 2003). Elementary and middle school students showed a stronger preference toward bright colors (such as lime green) and high school students toward neutral colors (such as beige) (Engelbrecht, 2003). Another color-related issue is students’ ability to stay focused on a certain section of the room (e.g., the white board) because of contrast. The research shows that if the wall students primarily face (which is presumably the wall that the white board or Smart board hangs on) were a different color than the surrounding walls, students would indeed be able to focus their eyes on it longer (Engelbrecht, 2003). While the positive effects of color could be useful to teachers and building administrators who assign student display space in their respective control areas, the knowledge of those effects may prove to be most useful for building designers or maintainers. Designers who decide the original wall color may make use of the data to assign the primary wall (identified earlier as the wall students will face) a different color so that students may reap the benefits of prolonged ability to focus due to increased color contrast. Building maintenance (and the school district and building administrators who assign them tasks) may consider this useful as they themselves can simply have the target wall painted after the fact.

Given the extended period of time basic education students generally spend sitting in a student desk or other type of seat, it is sensible to investigate whether or not such furniture is optimal for student learning. Research that investigated whether student seat designs aligned with the average student’s body-type and comfortability requirements revealed conflict (Panagiotopoulou, et al., 2004; Parcells et al., 1999). Though customizable student seats have existed for nearly a century (Woolner, 2007), few schools have made use of them even though studies have shown that improved seats increase the effectiveness of students’ learning (Knight & Noyes, 1999). Findings regarding ideal student desk designs would benefit schools’ designers if they are responsible for choosing the type of student desks that will reside in the school or the group within a district assigned to choosing students desks. This may also be useful to teachers should they ever be in a position to obtain superior student desks via a grant or other means.

After investigating the desks and seats students sit in on a daily basis, it is logical to examine how those items are arranged in a classroom and how desk arrangements affect the learning process. According to Woolner (2007) desk arrangement is an element of the physical environment of a classroom that can be easily adjusted by the instructor and can very well cause learning to occur more effectively. The research shows that for each type of desk arrangement (e.g., rows, groups), a grounds for this choice must lie in the instructor’s pedagogy (Woolner, 2007). In short, different arrangements have been found to be most effective with different level students, different subjects, and different teaching styles.

Are you enjoying Part 3 of this series? If so, we encourage you to keep reading in [Part 4].

Part 3 References

Earthman, G. I. (2004) Prioritization of 31 criteria for school building adequacy.

Killeen, J. P., Evans, G. W. & Danko, S. (2003) The role of permanent student artwork in students’ sense of ownership in an elementary school, Environment and Behavior, 35, 250–263.

Maxwell, L. E. (2000) A safe and welcoming school: what students, teachers, and parents think, Journal of Architectural and Planning Research, 17, 271–282.

Panagiotopoulou, G., Christoulas, K., Papanckolaou, A. & Mandroukas, K. (2004) Classroom furniture dimensions and anthropometric measures in primary school, Applied Ergonomics, 35, 121–128.

Parcells, C., Stommel, M. & Hubbard, R. P. (1999) Mismatch of classroom furniture and student body dimensions. Empirical findings and health implications, Journal of Adolescent Health, 24, 265–273.

Woolner, P., Hall, E., Higgins, S., McCaughey, C., & Wall, K. (2007). A sound foundation? What we know about the impact of environments on learning and the implications for building Schools for the future. Oxford Review of Education, 33, 47-70.