Aspects of Designing
C. Kenneth Tanner
School Design and Planning Laboratory
The University of Georgia
Athens, GA 30602
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permission of the SDPL.
Over the past several months the School Design and Planning Laboratory
(SDPL) has been conducting research to find school design variables
that influence student achievement. Our samples have been in the
State of Georgia and may not necessarily generalize to other areas.
We were successful in finding 29 design patterns that significantly
relate to student achievement. In all cases statistical controls
were placed on social and economic variables to eliminate bias.
The following list represents findings from two studies. All of
the school design categories were assessed by a valid and reliable
scale and correlated significantly with student achievement (Alpha
= .05). The research represents findings concerning the
aspect of learning. We have not examined the behavioral
or affective dimensions, but these areas are on our research agenda.
The school and grounds are compatible with the surroundings
and sufficient to facilitate the curriculum and programs. This
principle relates to personality of place and "in harmony"
with nature and the surroundings. Example >>
Pathways - Clearly defined
areas that allow freedom of movement among structures. These play
a vital role in the way people interact with buildings. Pathways
may also connect buildings to one another so that a person can
walk under the cover of arcades. Example
2; Example 3
Entrance Area -
A friendly space connecting the outside world to the inside
world. This age appropriate space should be inviting and highly
visible for students and visitors. It should evoke a welcome feeling.
Age appropriate refers to scale. For example, a huge and threatening
entrance with bold colors is not good for an elementary school.
1; Example 2; Entrance 3
Public Areas - Spaces that
foster a sense of community (unity and belonging) were identified
as public areas (Auditorium, Amphitheater, Media Center, Commons,
and Dining Room). Inviting and comfortable settings include ample
Administration Centralized - Administrative
offices are grouped together in a centralized area allowing for
connection and convenience. The person in charge should be readily
Circulation Patterns - Ample
spaces that allow students to circulate in and between rooms should
be part of the design. The passages should be broad and well-lit
allowing for freedom of movement. This pattern is also related
Instructional Neighborhoods Within Schools
- These areas include
a teacher planning area, flex zones, small and large group areas,
wet areas for science and art, a hearth area, and restrooms (toilets).
The hearth area is also a place used for reading and quiet time.
It is amenable to technology. Example
Multifunctionality of the Facility - Multifunctionality
reflects how versatile the facility is in relation to the different
tasks it can accomplish. Example1
Physical Education Areas- P. E. or play areas are special
where students are given the opportunity to be together, exercise,
build muscles, and test new skills in supervised settings. Releasing
energy is an important activity seen in these areas.
Activity Pockets -
Spaces should be designed for small group work.
Safe Place -
The indoor and outdoor environments guarantee students
and teachers security and comfort. Supervisable circulation patterns,
security systems, safe grounds and equipment, and toilets in classrooms
are important safety factors.
Personal Artifacts -
Places for display of items of a personal nature
that relate to each student improve school design. Example
Classroom Walls - Walls are conducive
for displaying students' work. Hallway Display - Hallways (walls
and alcoves) are suitable for displaying student work.
These should give the best possible views overlooking
life and bring natural light into the school building. The
SDPL recommends at least 72 square feet for windows in a 900 square
Natural Light/ Full Spectrum - Artificial light plus
natural light from
the outside, preferably on two sides of every room, is ideal.
Natural light influences student behavior and attitudes. Example
Green Areas -
Educationally sound school design includes places outside,
close to the school building, where trees, grass, or gardens may
be seen, but no cars or roads are in view. Example
Living Views - Views of indoor
and outdoor spaces (gardens, animals, fountains, mountains, people,
etc.) improve school design. Views allow minds and eyes to take
a break. Views should not be blocked by curtains, blinds, or other
Quiet Areas -
Quiet areas are spaces where students may go to pause and
refresh themselves in a quiet and supervised setting.
Private Spaces for Students - Supervised private places (inside or
outside) where children may go to be alone (i.e. reading area,
listening area) are essential.
Technology for Students - Special
spaces with computers, compact discs, software, internet connections,
television, and video are important for learning activities. In
our studies the schools that made computers available for student
learning showed higher academic achievement on the average. This
finding was after social and economic variables had been accounted
Technology for Teachers - Computers, multimedia, and
are easily accessible. Teachers have access to technology outside
the media center for use in research and planning lessons.
Phones in classrooms, intercom, faxes, e-mail and internet
are necessary for educationally sound design.
Outdoor Rooms -
A partly enclosed space outdoors; enough like a room, but
with the added beauties of nature. This is a room with a sense
of freedom. This may be a reading ares, a lecture area, or an
area for exploring natural habitat. It might be an amphitheater
in a natural setting. Example
Spaces - Places
which are defined learning areas. They may be surrounded by wings
of buildings, trees, hedges, fences, fields, arcades or walkways.
These are specific areas that are used as outdoor learning environments
such as nature trails. Example
Egress - Doors allow easy
access to the outside environment and learning areas. This is
also a safety feature allowing for quick evacuation. The SDPL
recommends that each classroom (ground level) should have a door
leading to an outside patio and gardens (Outdoor learning environments).
Climate Control - A system
of climate control maintains a comfortable temperature in the
classroom learning environment. Climate controls should be within
each indoor learning environment where the teacher may have control
of the temperature range.
Roof system - A leaking roof
can disrupt student learning. The roof plays an important part
in the health and comfort of the students and teachers.
Paint - The quality and color
of the paint in the halls and classrooms influence behavior. The
walls and finishes should be visually stimulating. For more information
on color please refer to our link at
Overall Impression - A student
friendly and teacher friendly learning environment provides a
positive impression. This involves aspects of all positive or
negative design patterns.
Research by graduate students ( Dr.Scott Andersen and
Ms. Elizabeth Jago) has been condensed into the above set of findings.
Members of the Department of Educational Leadership who served
on the research committees also played a significant role in keeping
the research unbiased and sound.