“Ichabod Crane, that parody of bad teaching,” write Cathy Davidson and David Goldberg in “The Future of Thinking,” “could walk into most ... classrooms today and know exactly where to stand.” Davidson and Goldberg’s poignant remark speaks to the ways in which classrooms and other school facilities have remained relatively static for many centuries. Contemporary teaching theorists such as Davidson and Goldberg, as well as Debra Hawhee, however, have recognized important facts about how important school facilities are when it comes to student performance.
Schools that are too hot or too cold can have a hugely adverse effect on student performance. Conversely, schools that have well-regulated temperature control systems provide comfortable environments in which students can focus on scholastic tasks at hand, rather than sweating or shivering. Classrooms and other facilities that are too hot can exacerbate learning disabilities such as autism, and they can make students and teachers sleepy. Facilities that are too cold can exacerbate health impairments such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, making it difficult for some students to concentrate.
Cleanliness and Order
The so-called “broken window” theory applies to school facilities as well as city streets. School facilities that have student scrawlings on the desks or the walls can cause occupants to develop a disrespectful attitude toward those spaces, as well as the activities that take place therein. Similarly, facilities that are improperly maintained or that have lots of broken fixtures or equipment tend to promote a similar feeling of disregard.
Light and Nature
School facilities that feature lots of natural light, as well as windows that overlook greenspaces, or at least some indoor plants, promote creative and engaged learning. Hawhee maintains that facilities that have access to light and nature make the school environment seem fully integrated into the environment surrounding the school. Consequently, going to school does not represent as jarring an experience as it can be if the school seems more closed off from the outside world.
Traditionally, classrooms are organized around a teacher’s station, which is usually situated front and center in the classroom. Student spaces move away from this station, usually in orderly rows. While this arrangement works wonders for lecture-style direct instruction, it tends to stymie student interaction and cooperation. Many 21st century classrooms, according to Goldberg and Davidson, arrange student spaces in small groups and even go so far as to eliminate the teacher’s station altogether. This facilitates a feeling of cooperation, not just between students, but between students and the teacher.
- "The Future of Thinking: Learning Institutions in a Digital Age"; Cathy Davidson and David Goldberg
- "Bodily Arts: Rhetoric and Athletics in Ancient Greece"; Debra Hawhee
- American Journal of Education: "An Application of "Broken‐Windows" and Related Theories to the Study of Disorder, Fear, and Collective Efficacy in Schools"; Stephen Plank and Catherine Bradshaw
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