School building and classroom design significantly influences student learning and achievement, according to study findings published in Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences.
Sapna Cheryan, PhD, of the University of Washington in Seattle, and colleagues reviewed recent literature on physical classroom environment and student academic performance. Included studies evaluated how lighting, acoustics, temperature, air quality, accessibility, classroom layout, objects and décor, and virtual classrooms affected student academic performance.
Researchers found that students exposed to more natural light performed better compared with students exposed to less natural light. Sixteen percent of schools with permanent buildings and 28% of schools with portable facilities have unsatisfactory lighting, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Results also demonstrated the optimal temperature for learning is between 68° F and 74° F. Fourteen percent of US public schools with permanent buildings and 12% of US public schools with temporary buildings report unsatisfactory and very unsatisfactory heating, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Décor also influences student academic performance. Research suggests symbols in the classroom can inadvertently suggest who is valued.
Classroom objects that displayed achievements of traditionally disadvantaged groups, such as photographs of female scientists, had the potential to increase performance of students who associate with those groups, according to a press release. Stereotypical symbols that represent a group, like American Indian mascots, can cause lower self-esteem among students who associate with those groups.
If a classroom contains objects that appeal to only some students, such as an abundance of science fiction objects in a computer science classroom, it may deter students who do not identify with those objects from enrolling in the particular course.
“For students to learn to their full potential, scientific evidence suggests that the classroom environment must be of minimum structural quality and contain cues signaling that all students are valued learners,” the researchers wrote. “Improving student learning, achievement, and motivation requires attending to both the structural and symbolic features in the classroom.”
Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.