| Aug 7, 2014 |
Study links physical environment and student behavior
Boh staff
By Staff

New data released from Steelcase Education has reaffirmed the positive correlation between college students’ engagement, their perceptions of academic success, and a classroom intentionally designed for active learning.

According to the study, 72% of students said the change in classroom design to a more flexible space increased their motivation to attend class, 72% of students said the new classroom layout with flexible furnishings would increase their ability to achieve a higher grade, and 84% of students reported being more engaged in the classroom activities.

Amidst all the changes in students, technology and education, Steelcase Education is working with educators and designers to rethink classrooms, libraries, common areas and other in between spaces to incorporate user-friendly technology, flexible furniture, vibrant colors and other tools to support active learning.

“For many years, inflexible classroom layouts with rows of stationary desks have not only hindered mobility, but also engagement,” said Dr. Lennie Scott Webber, Director Education Environments Globally, Steelcase Education. “With this study, Steelcase Education is putting forward solid evidence around the role of intentional classroom design to demonstrate the impact on student academic achievement—and create a potential template for institutions to follow.”

According to the study, more than just percentages were seen. Student engagement levels were compared between the old classroom situation [row-by-column seating] to the new [flexible layouts] and the difference was statistically significant (p<0.0001).

Steelcase Education developed an Active Learning Post-Occupancy Evaluation© (AL-POE) tool to measure multiple student engagement factors as synthesized from brain science, learning research, the National Survey for Student Engagement, and Webber’s research work. Over 120 students at four U.S. higher education institutions participated in the beta test, including those at Ball State University and The University of Minnesota-Rochester.

“At Ball State we've realized that despite all the many benefits advances in technology have brought education, our students still require a physical learning environment that compliments new technologies and supports new pedagogies to prepare them for the jobs of not just now but the future,” said Gary Pavlechko, Director of Teaching Technology, Office of Educational Excellence, Ball State University. “We've known anecdotally for some time that environment can positively impact our ability to create a more engaged and successful education experience. This research finally proves it.”

The study’s research protocol was reviewed and approved by Heartland Institutional Review Board. A third-party statistician analyzed two semesters worth of aggregated data, and the initial beta study was recently published in the peer-reviewed Planning for Higher Education Journal, published by The Society for College and University Planners.

These results may be used to influence decision-makers thinking about future classroom design solutions at many higher education institutions as well as inform architectural and design communities working in the education practice.

“This study provides new evidence in how intentionally designed and furnished learning space improves engagement, and in turn focus so students are more prepared for the challenges of tomorrow,” added Webber.”

For more information on the results of this study, click here.

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