Building Design Can Affect Student Progress Up to 25%

A recent article in Building and Environment: The International Journal of Building Science and its Applications identifies six physical environmental factors that can have a significant impact on student learning.

The article, “A Holistic, Multi-Level Analysis Identifying the Impact of Classroom Design on Pupils’ Learning,” studied 751 students in seven different schools in the UK. Their progress was tracked over the course of a year, and statistical modeling demonstrated clear differences in outcomes correlating to six environmental factors: color, choice, connection, complexity, flexibility, and light.

Natural light and artificial light were both important. Good classrooms received natural light from more than one orientation, and the space adjacent to the windows remained uncluttered, free from obstructions.

Choice is described as “the degree to which the distinct characteristics of the classroom allow the sense of ownership.” In particular, furniture, fixtures and other equipment was a significant factor. Quality furniture that supports the learning activities, and is comfortable and ergonomic, and does not scrimp on space correlate with this variable.

Flexibility refers to classrooms having zones that allow for a variety of learning activities happening at the same time, as well as the degree to which it is easy for the teacher to change the space configuration.

Connection focused on pathways or corridors between space. A typical deficiency in a connecting space would be a hallway that is also used for storage, and become cluttered and more difficult to navigate, or even to traverse with one’s eyes.

Complexity attempts to describe a balance between an interior decor that is stimulating and eye-catching, but remains balanced and ordered.

Color is important, but many of us know that at many of our institutions the choices that are made for walls and carpet in instructional space are primarily to fit in with the building’s overall decorating scheme. This study points out that the color of walls and floors is important. At the same time, appropriate color choices may vary depending on the students’ ages. This study suggests warm colors for younger students, and cool colors for older students. I need to read much more about how colors affect learning.

The permanent link to the study is at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.buildenv.2012.09.016

You may find it via your institution’s online resources by searching for:

Building and Environment
Volume 59, January 2013, Pages 678–689
A holistic, multi-level analysis identifying the impact of classroom design on pupils’ learning
Peter Barrett, Yufan Zhang, Joanne Moffat, Khairy Kobbacy

If you have suggestions for further reading on related topics, please consider sharing that in the comments section.

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