Influence of the School Environment on Student and Teacher Attitudes:

Student attitudes are shaped to some extent by the structures (facilities) through which they are mediated (Ferreira, 1995). In fact, building conditions can directly affect the attitudes of students or the attitudes of teachers and parents which in turn affect student attitudes. Proshansky (1970) referred to physical settings and attitudes as follows: Physical settings-simple or complex-evoke complex human responses in the form of feelings, attitudes, values, expectancies, and desires, and it is in this sense as well as their known physical properties that their relationships to human experience and behavior must be understood. (p.28)

There is a body of research in the area of school facilities and their relationship to student and teacher attitudes. Stockard and Mayberry (1992) found that the quality of a physical plant or environment is related to non-cognitive outcomes, such as better attitudes toward school. These outcomes may eventually relate to higher academic achievement. Christopher (1988) concluded that human nature makes people feel better about themselves when their surroundings are pleasant. Students who have better attitudes usually learn more and work harder. McGuffey (1972) conducted a study investigating pupil attitudes toward their school buildings in the elementary level. He found that students housed in newer school buildings which were fully carpeted and air-conditioned showed more positive attitudes than students housed in older buildings.

A study completed by Lovin (1972) in Middle Georgia explored the attitudes of elementary children who had moved from a traditional school to an open-space school. It was shown that the children were keenly aware of their school building and responded positively to bright and comfortable surroundings. In fact, these children's attitudes were directly related to their physical surrounding. Chan (1982) compared student attitudes toward the physical environment of a school opened in 1980 and that of two older schools: one built in 1923 and the other in 1936. The main finding of this study indicated that pupils housed in a modern school building have significantly more positive attitudes toward school than do pupils housed in a much older building. Likewise, Cramer (1976) studied selected Junior High Schools in the Bibb County School District of Georgia. He contended that pupils housed in newly renovated school facilities showed more positive attitudes.

In the area of self-concept, Bowers and Burkett(1989) concluded that self-concept scores on the Piers-Harris Children's Self-Concept Scale of students in a modern facility were significantly higher than the student scores of those housed in an older facility. Maslow and Mintz (1956) studied student attitudes in "ugly, neutral and beautiful" rooms finding significant differences corresponding to room quality in the responses (p.466). These researchers revealed that the mean rating given by the subjects in the beautiful room was in the range defined as "energy" and "well-being" while the mean of the ratings given by subjects in both the average and ugly rooms was in the range defined as "fatigued" and "displeased" (p.466). Furthermore, the students placed in the beautiful room expressed feelings of "comfort, pleasure, enjoyment, importance, energy and a desire to continue their activity" (p.466). Thus, if children have positive attitudes and look forward to attending school, it stands to reason they will do better in their classes (Christopher, 1988).

Teachers' attitudes are also directly related to the school facility. Several studies have been conducted in the area of open-space classrooms and their effect on teacher attitudes. Lewis (1976) examined the influence of open-space classrooms and closed-space classrooms on the attitudes of teachers toward the school building. It was found that teachers housed in open-space classrooms showed more positive attitudes. Likewise, Jones (1974) concluded that teachers' attitudes toward their students in open-space classrooms improved significantly. Mills(1972) agreed with Jones' findings when he concluded that teachers in open-space areas exhibited behaviors that allowed greater pupil freedom and self-direction. These teachers displayed behaviors which were more permissive, supportive, warm and sympathetic toward students. As one can see, not only does the physical environment of a school affect children, teachers are also affected by the design of a school building. And so, school architects, educators and facility planners must take into consideration the impact that the design of school buildings have on student and teacher attitudes.


Bowers, J.H. & Burkett, G.W. (1987). Relationship of student achievement and characteristics in two selected school facility environmental settings. Edmonton, Alberta, Canada: 64th Annual International conference of the council of Educational Facility Planners. (ERIC Reproduction Service No. ED286278)

Chan, T.C. (1979). The impact of school building age on the achievement of eighth grade pupils from the public schools in the state of Georgia. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Georgia, Athens.

Christopher, G. (1988). The aesthetic environment and student learning. School Business Affairs, 54(1), 26-27.

Cramer, J.R. (1976). Some effects of school building renovation on pupil attitudes and behavior in selected junior high schools. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Georgia, Athens.

Ferreira, M.M. (1995). The caring of a suburban middle school. Indiana University, Bloomington: Center for Adolescent Studies. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED385011)

Hones, W.L. (1974). Comparison of cognitive and affective change of ninth grade students in open-space and closed-space classes. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Arizona State University.

Lewis, F.E. (1977). The influence of open-space classrooms and closed- space classrooms on teachers' attitudes toward the school building. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, The University of Georgia, Athens.

Lovin, J.C. Jr. (1972). The effect of the school's physical environment on the self-concepts of elementary school students. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, the University of Georgia, Athens.

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.

McGuffey, C.W. (1972). Pupil attitudes toward existing schools as compared to new fully carpeted, air-conditioned schools. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia.

Mills, F.M. (1972). A comparison of teacher performance and attitudes of teachers performing independently in self-contained classrooms and teachers performing cooperatively in open instructional areas. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Arizona State University.

Proshansky, H.M. (1975). Environmental psychology: Man and his setting. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, Inc.

Stockard, J. & Mayberry, M. (1992). Effective educational environments. Oregon (ERIC Document Reproduction Services No. ED350674).

Lovin, J.C. Jr. (1972). The effect of the school's physical environment on the self-concepts of elementary school students. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, the University of Georgia, Athens.

This summary was compiled by Elizabeth Jago and Ken Tanner

Posted: (April 1999)

<  SDPL>