Influence of the Physical Environment on Student Behavior and Achievement:

Aesthetic Factors:

Research in the area of school design focusing on factors such as lighting, coloring and thermal control have previously been summarized on other web pages at this site. Aesthetic factors are critical to school design and planning. In fact, the results of various research conducted in this area indicated a significant enhancement of student achievement in school buildings of higher aesthetic standards (Phillips, 1997). Mason and Mintz (1956) studied the aesthetic effects of the environment on people within different types of environments. They concluded that people housed in "beautiful" rooms had better attitudes and greater achievement than people housed in "average" or "ugly" rooms. According to Hathaway (1988), educational facilities are closely related to learning and human performance. He found that "either they convey subtle messages (perceptual constraining factors), they aid or inhibit performance of the occupants (individual constraining factors), or they influence programs and the way they are offered (program constraining factors) (p.12). In 1988, Taylor and Gousie found that the architectural settings of a school can "facilitate the transmission of cultural values, stimulate or subdue, aid in creativity or slow mental perception, and cause fear or joy" (p.23).

Schools of today are in need of face lifts, new furniture systems, and designs (Phillips, 1997). Jaynes and Williams (1989) summarized the 1986 research of Edmonds who concluded that the variability in the distribution of achievement among school age children in the U.S. derives from the variability in the nature of the schools they attend. Edwards (1991) also found that the condition of the building to be related to academic achievement and the improvement in the condition of the building is associated with the improvement in overall achievement scores. His study concluded that there is a predictable 8.49 percentage point decline in achievement scores for students who attended schools in poor condition as compared to those scores found for students at schools in excellent condition. Thus aesthetic factors must be controlled in any school facility.


Edwards, M.M. (1991). Building conditions, parental involvement and student achievement in the D.C. Public school system. District of Columbia Public Schools. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED338743).

Hathaway, W.E. (1988). Educational facilities: Neutral with respect to learning and human performance. CEFPI Journal, 26(4), 8-12.

Jaynes, G.D. & Williams, R.M. (1989). A common destiny: Blacks and american society. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

Maslow, A.H. & Mintz, N.L. (1956). Effects of aesthetic surroundings: Initial effects of three aesthetic conditions upon perceiving, "energy", and "well-being" in faces. Journal of Psychology, 41, 247-254.

Phillips, R.W. (1997). Educational facility and the academic achievement and attendance of upper elementary school students. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Georgia, Athens.

Taylor, A. & Gousie, G. (1988). The ecology of learning environments for children. CEFPI Journal, 26(4), 23-28.

This summary was compiled by Elizabeth Jago and Ken Tanner

Posted: (April 1999)

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