What difference does a school’s environment make to the learning process?
The spaces we walk in and the places we visit may just be rooms, roads and buildings to us, but their inherent qualities have been linked to the emotional well-being of those that experience them.
For a long time, artists and designers have understood the connection between internal states of being and behaviour and different types of spaces and environments. However, the findings of Dr Eddie Edgerton, an environmental psychologist based at the University of the West of Scotland, bring a similar awareness to the area of school design and architecture.
In his work, Dr Edgerton discusses how new buildings in a school environment are viewed in a more positive light than older buildings and as a result contribute to minimising negative behavior during the learning process.
With additional effects including increased self-esteem and a more engaged attitude towards the learning process, the research is already impacting on the development of schools and the building of new sites.
Such results reinforce the 2010 survey by the British Council for School Environments (BCSE), which demonstrated that 95.8% of teachers agreed that the school environment could influence the learning process, with a further 52.1% believing that the surroundings could have a negative effect.
Areas for concern highlighted by this survey included too few spaces for students to relax and too few classrooms of appropriate size. With class numbers on the increase, such concerns are becoming more and more relevant and harder to ignore.
With a lack of inspiring spaces to learn in, it's believed that the learning process can suffer, leaving both parents and teachers struggling to keep them motivated and interested.
Of course, such results have led to questions being asked on the subject of current and future investment in the UK. If solutions really are to be found, far more funding will be required to update and improve school environments for both students and teachers.
In America, things aren't much better. Around twenty years ago, the American Federation of Teachers asked for a 'Marshall Plan' directed primarily at urban schools. This plan addressed existing buildings in schools that were crumbling and the lack of new modern school builds. These areas were said to lead to injuries and poor performance during the learning process.
Now even more schools in the US are in need of renovation and modernization.
There have been many calls to improve school environments in an effort to positively impact the learning process.
Areas found to be lacking in schools in America include ventilation and air-conditioning systems, acoustic materials that help to reduce noise, security concerns, integrated technology within the design of buildings, staffing levels and the need for more adequate educational furniture.
In spite of existing research that has highlighted these areas of concern in both UK and US schools, much needed financial solutions are slow in materialising. However, with more and more studies highlighting the need for greater funding, the future of our schools looks brighter, with more opportunities on the horizon to improve the learning process and the learning environments for future generations.
Francesca Burke is a UK-based freelance writer who enjoys writing about every subject under the sun, from business and careers to travel and food. She has always had a particular interest in education and has written this article on behalf of Innova Design Solutions, specialists in educational furniture.