Message - Re: effect of School Architecture on its students. (Environmental psychology)

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Posted by  Neha on April 27, 2003 at 03:15:28:

In Reply to:  effect of School Architecture on its students. (Environmental psychology) posted by Rohan DS on April 03, 2003 at 09:57:41:

well here's one of the text's i've come across, if u need some more info u can always mail me. hope this is what ur looking for:The Effects of School Facilities on Student Learning:
A Summary of Research

"Do not confine your children to your own learning, for they were born in another time."

Lynne D. Hall Ed P&L 958: School Facilities Planning Dr. Cynthia Uline December, 2001

The Effects of School Facilities on Learning: A Summary of the Research
It is a well known fact that Ohio contains some of the worst school buildings in the nation. The state has lacked a serious effort to improve school buildings, preferring to leave this task up to the local communities. This policy has created a division between wealthy districts, who are able to afford new, state-of-the art buildings, and rural and/or low income districts (such as the eight major cities), who are unable or unwilling to accept the burden of school construction and renovation. For many communities, the definition of "decent" facilities is extremely narrow. Parents and grandparents believe if school facilities are good enough for them they are good enough for future generations.
As a result of a decade-long lawsuit against the state by a coalition of schools, Ohio's current lawmakers, led by Governor Taft, have pledged substantial funds for a ten-year plan to rebuild our state's schools. Currently investing $2.0 million dollars per day, this program has started with the most needy districts, along with an expedited effort to fix the facility problems in our state's major cities and some rural areas.
The program requires a local match, which districts must levy against themselves. The local match requirement ranges from less that 10 percent to over 90 percent. In some districts this is an easy sell, in others voters are resistant to paying more taxes. Some residents need additional evidence to persuade them to support a building plan, beyond, "It would be nice to have a new building." Parents, especially, want to know how a new school facility can impact their child's learning. This paper examines research that has been conducted in this area.
We know about the impact of facilities on learning through both anecdotal and objective means. Teachers know from their daily experiences how facilities can enhance or detract from productive learning. During an interview I conducted with my daughter and her third grade teacher at Richwood-Claibourne Elementary, I learned that students and teacher could not hear each other in the classroom until early October when the weather cooled enough for the fans in the classroom to be turned off. In November, my daughter asked for her seat to be moved away from the open windows because she was sitting in a draft, while the boys on the other side of the room were hot. A facility study done in 1982 found a significant relationship between thermal factors, student achievement and behavior.
My daughter's classroom of 480 square feet for 25 students (when 900 sq. ft. is recommended) does not allow for adequate movement between tables without bumping into students and their belongings. Students frequently kick, elbow and annoy each other as they shift in their chairs. Crowded classrooms contribute to heightened anxiety and stress among students. Discipline problems escalate when students sit in too close a proximity to each other. One researcher found that high levels of classroom density result in dissatisfaction and decreased social interaction.
In my daughter's school there is no room for storage of materials and students do not have lockers in which to keep their things. For assemblies, the classes must walk across the road to use the middle school gymnasium which has adequate seating. Her teacher reports that at least 12 minutes of instructional time is lost twice each day because the boys' restroom is two floors down and a hallway's length away. The boys' restroom on the same level as the classroom was closed several years ago because the boys plugged up the plumbing on a regular basis and urinal water would leak from that floor into the classroom below, dripping on the children's coats.
Students at Richwood-Claibourne frequently complain about only having 15 minutes to eat lunch. With only one lunch line in the small cafeteria, it takes 15 minutes for 125 students to pay and be served. This situation affects our childrens' health and nutrition while most schools in the area have two or three lunch lines, shortening the wait time for their students.
Michael Galvin, principal of the new Columbine, CO, Elementary School described their architects' challenge of designing a building for a beautiful mountainside setting but at a low cost to the taxpayer. The design called for a school that created a sense of 'high expectations with low personal stress.' Mr. Galvin stated that he believed teacher morale improved significantly in the new building as teachers were able to work in pleasant, non-crowded surroundings. In one teacher's words, "I get positive energy from this building. The beauty of the surroundings helps my attitude and lifts my spirits." Students responded to the new facility by saying, "This school makes me happy. When I come to school I want to learn".
While the Columbine building design tried to incorporate the surrounding environment, it was soon discovered that the fixed windows and closed ventilating system did not allow teachers to control the physical environment of the classroom as much as they would have liked. A subsequent bond issue allowed them to replace the fixed windows with operable ones, allowing them to bring in the smells and sounds of the pine forest. They were also able to provide two new activity rooms that allow instruction to occur in nontraditional ways such as team teaching and project-based instruction, activities that were formerly hindered by the facilities.
As we search for more empirical evidence to support the link between facilities and learning, there are various studies reported by the Council of Educational Facilities Planners International and the American Institute of Architects. Both groups support a continuing dialogue regarding the implications of school facilities on learning.
Certain architectural features do affect behavior and, it is assumed that student behavior does impact learning. One researcher found that the qualities of complexity, surprise, novelty and beauty encourage exploratory behavior among school building occupants. He found that interest and involvement in school by young children increased as stimulus complexity increased. In a study of preschools, spatial quality in the physical environment was linked with student and teacher engagement in classroom activity. They found that when spatial quality was low, teachers were more likely to be insensitive or neutral in their nature, while in high quality space teachers were more likely to be sensitive, friendly and encouraging in their manner toward children.
In the Washington, D.C. public schools, it was found that the school building's physical condition was statistically related to students' academic achievement on the California Test of Basic Skills. Buildings were rated according to their overall physical condition by a committee of experts and it was shown that as schools moved from poor to fair ratings, achievement scores increased by 5.455 points, while improvement from poor to excellent ratings resulted in a 10.9 point increase in student achievement.
A study in two rural Tennessee elementary schools compared student achievement in the oldest and newest buildings in the district. While both student groups were determined to be from similar socioeconomic levels (based upon the numbers qualified for free and reduced school lunch), the students in the new school outscored their peers in the older school on achievement tests. A study done last year found that schools receiving a high rating on "overall impression" had students who tended to score higher on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. It also found that students scored higher if their school had positive outdoor spaces and technology for teachers.
The Ohio School Facilities Commission makes note in the School Facilities Design Manual that color has an impact on student learning. A group of researchers found that students participated twice as much in discussions in classrooms that were "soft", meaning they had warm colors, soft furniture, and textured floor coverings. When students rated such classrooms, they rated them higher than traditional classrooms. Another study found that soft classrooms were associated with better attendance and more positive attitudes toward the class, the instructor and classmates. Still another study found a relationship between an "ugly" environment and feelings of discontent, the desire to escape, and fatigue.
Teachers instinctively know that quality physical space affects student self-esteem, student-teacher and peer interactions, student motivation and discipline. Several researchers confirmed that "pro-social" behaviors do impact academic achievement. When the relationship between school building condition and student performance on standardized tests was analyzed, in most cases students in old buildings scored lower on such tests.
In a study by the U.S. General Accounting Office regarding school conditions, it was found that a substantial percentage of schools in most states had inadequate HVAC systems and lighting. One study found that inadequate cooling in buildings was more of a problem than heating. Regarding lighting, there have been at least 10 studies that have found a relationship between classroom visibility and visual performance of students. Most older buildings were built with less than half of the candle power recommended by architects today. Light has been shown to affect blood pressure, pulse, respiration rates, brain activity, biorhythms, and the pineal gland's synthesis of melatonin and serotonin.
The use of natural lighting along with manmade lighting is a current trend in architecture that is believed to be positive for learning. Exposure to full-spectrum lighting has been associated with better school attendance, more positive moods, great concentration, and better scholastic performance.
Noise in classrooms also decreases learning. In my daughter's classroom at Richwood-Claibourne, the high ceilings and close walls cause sounds to echo, which is distracting to students trying to concentrate. The principal has recently initiated an effort to put halved tennis balls on the bottoms of the chairs so the scraping sound as they move is not so loud. My study of research found several instances in which unwanted sound in classrooms had a negative impact on learning.
Issues of class size and school size, which are determined by the physical space of a building, have been examined as well. A survey by the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that schools with larger numbers of students are often better able to offer smaller classes because of more flexibility in staffing. Another study found that student performance in math and reading in high school was related to school size, with the ideal high school ranging from 600 to 900 students. Many small schools lack sufficient opportunities for student participation in enrichment and specialty classes. Small buildings often do not have space set aside for common areas or individual and small group instruction, limiting teachers' methods of instruction.
A study in South Carolina elementary schools found that "smaller is better" is not often supported when effective schools are identified. The seven elementary schools that won the State Incentive Award all ten years it was given had an average enrollment of 818 students. Smaller class size does, however, appear to impact student achievement. A study found that classes of about 15 students appear to benefit all K-3 elementary students, particularly those in need of extra help. They also found that high levels of cognitive achievement are impossible to meet in large classes and crowded schools.
Concerning individual classroom design, many academic teachers are shifting their instruction to a "laboratory" focus. Individual student desks are being replaced by new designs for learning. The classroom of tomorrow will need to accommodate the following: individual student work and research space, common areas for presentations and community meetings, cooperative learning space, private areas for one-to-one instruction and make-up work, annexes for students to do individual work away from the rest of the class, and office areas for individual testing and parent meetings.
The Z-shaped classroom in the elementary or middle school is heralded as a design that fosters student-centered instruction. This futuristic design allows students to spread out and undertake multidisciplinary tasks in varying sized groups. It contains the following areas:
Desk area - where students can do seat work, study independently, or assemble as a large group for direction instruction.
Computer center - all computers are connected to the school network and the Internet.
Science center - recessed from the central room and includes a science lab table with experiment stands, electrical outlets, data jacks, sink, counter space and window box.
Reading nook and teacher center - features a bookcase, comfortable chairs and a rug. The teacher center commands an entire view of the room and is equipped with a computer, fax machine, telephone, and storage.
Media wall - a space in the classroom for multimedia presentations that could possibly include video conferences, student produced shows, and a stage for presentations.
Current school design principles reflect the latest in brain-based research. Many existing facilities could not be easily reconfigured to contain these components. Architects says schools should contain the following elements:
1. Rich, stimulating environments using color, texture, and sound.
2. Places for group learning, such as alcoves and breakout space.
3. Links to the outdoors such as land labs and play fields.
4. Corridors and public places symbolizing the community's larger purpose.
5. Changing displays using interactive media to stimulate brain development.
6. Available resources in close proximity to encourage rich learning.
7. Personalized space for students to express self-identity.
8. Active/passive places for students to engage, reflect and retreat.
9. Flexible space to allow changing with the times.
10. A variety of places of different shapes, colors, lighting, and size.
11. Safe places to feel valued, be nourished and receive help.
12. Places for the community at large to learn and interact.
What is contained in classrooms matters as well. Researchers found that pictures on classroom walls improved students' performance on word tasks. Another study found similar results regarding students' persistence at motor tasks. In a s ummary of research at The Ohio State University found that aesthetic elements affect self-esteem, peer and student-teacher interactions, discipline, attention, motivation, and interpersonal relations.
Common areas of the school can also facilitate student learning. Areas for counselors and social workers to come into the schools and work with students help students deal with issues that may be inhibiting learning. Clinics help students get medical assistance without being sent home and missing lessons.
Lastly, safety should be mentioned. Learning is less likely to occur in settings where students and teachers do not feel safe. Narrow hallways that are too small for student traffic between classes encourage fighting and hinder evacuation in emergencies. Design features that enhance school safety and security are vital. Large, monolithic buildings with a labyrinth of halls, such as Columbine H.S. do not allow for adequate supervision of students. Supervisable circulation patterns will become a design feature in the twenty-first century school, as well as security systems that allow schools to be under total lockdown within five seconds of the touch one button by the principal. There clearly is a need for more and current research on the link between school facilities and learning. In North Union, I have asked teachers to keep an accounting of how "time on task" is limited by the physical surroundings. We need to consider whether students are more likely to be absent if they attend schools in poor condition and whether this is impacting our attendance and dropout rates. It is likely that parents are less willing to move into districts where the schools are outdated and deteriorating. This affects the economic development of our area. In summary, it is time for new buildings at North Union because the current ones are hampering learning. We are fortunate that the state is willing to pay 64 percent of the share to fix our facility problems. A comprehensive solution will consist of a new K-5 building, new middle school and renovated high school. Passing a bond issue on May 7 is the first step toward our part of the project.

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