Schools and universities have been under extra-heavy media scrutiny recently. From coverage of school closings, budget shortfalls and teacher strikes to horrific events such as school shootings and security breaches, education institutions are squarely in the spotlight.
However, receiving a lot less media attention are the results of a recent study that finds classroom design can influence a student’s academic performance—by as much as 25 percent.
Numerous studies over the years have tried to evaluate the impact facilities and design have on academic performance, student health and the learning environment. The most recent study was conducted by the University of Salford (England) and Nightingale Associates architects. The year-long study tracked 751 students in 34 classrooms. Researchers evaluated various parameters, such as classroom orientation, acoustics, natural light, temperature, indoor air quality, flexibility, organization and color.
The findings suggest placing an average student in one of the best-designed classroom environments compared with one of the worst-designed equates to a year of academic progress. The study is expected to be continued over an additional 18 months and encompass 20 more schools across the United Kingdom. For more info on the report, visit http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.buildenv.2012.09.016.
More than 20 years after American School & University’s groundbreaking special series of reports on the facility’s impact on learning, studies such as the University of Salford’s continue to provide evidence to further the discussion on what constitutes the most conducive and effective environments for learning. With further results such as these that provide scientific data linking the built environment to student performance, as well as many other studies that have tied facilities to staff and student health, attention once again should be focused on this important relationship.
This will enable school administrators to be better armed with the resources needed to persuade skeptics of an education facility’s true value—that it is not just an “expense,” but an “investment” in education where a community of lifelong learners can flourish.