Impact of the School Environment
on Learning and Teaching
Even as some question the role facilities play in student achievement, a growing literature investigates the link between facility quality and student achievement (Earthman, 2004; Earthman & Lemasters, 1996, 1998; Lemasters, 1997; Higgins, Hall, Wall, Woolner, & McCaughey, 2005; Schneider, 2002).
Building Features and Conditions
Specific building features and conditions, relating to human comfort, have been shown to influence student achievement. These include building age (Bowers and Burkett, 1998; Chan, 1979; Earthman & Lemasters, 1996; McGuffey & Brown, 1978; O’Neill, 2000; Phillips, 1997; Plumley 1978); non-modernized versus modernized and refurbished buildings (Maxwell, 1999; McGuffey & Brown, 1978; Plumley 1978); climate control and indoor air quality (Cash, 1993; Earthman, 2004; Hines, 1996; Lanham, 1999); lighting (Heschong Mahone Group, 1999; Kuller & Lindsten, 1992; Mayron, Ott, Nations, & Mayron, 1974; Wurtman, 1975); acoustical control (Evans and Maxwell, 1997 ; Haines, Stansfeld, Job, Berglund & Head, 2001; Hygge, Evans, & Bullinger, 2002; Maxwell & Evans, 2000); overall impression (Tanner, 2000); and design classifications including flexible classroom arrangements, clearly defined pathways, positive outdoor spaces, large-group meeting rooms, instructional neighborhoods, and ample egress (Tanner & Lackney, 2006).
Teacher Attitude and Performance
Students are not the only ones affected by poor quality buildings. The nature and quality of the built learning environment also has been shown to affect teacher attitudes, behaviors, and performance (Buckley, et al., 2004; Dawson & Parker, 1998; Lowe, 1990; Schneider, 2003). As well, the quality of the building influences the community’s ongoing engagement with a school. Berner (1993) found that parent involvement was related to the condition of school buildings in Washington, D.C.
Likewise, Hawkins and Overbaugh (1988) studied exemplary Japanese and American schools finding increased learning in the schools designed to reflect community values. In these schools, cleanliness and care emerged as the most important factors.
The manner in which a school building is designed, managed, and maintained sends a message to its occupants and the community beyond, speaking volumes about the value placed on activities transpiring within its walls. We have the capacity to influence these properties practically and artfully on behalf of the students and teachers whose performance we wish to support and improve (Uline, 2000).
Page 8 of 10
Designing an Environment for Learning
Part II: Planning and Designing Learner-centered School Facilities