Influence of the Physical Environment on Student Behavior


Spaces and places can evoke emotional responses and elicit or inhibit behavioral responses (Lewis,1977). Pupil disruptive behavior in our nation's schools has become a serious educational problem (Cramer, 1976). Educators and school facility planners should be able to better design or redesign classrooms capable of producing desirable and more predictable student behaviors. Regarding school size, Bailey (1970) indicated that poor school facilities were considered a major cause of behavioral disruptions in schools. He noted "overcrowding together with its attendant noise and fatigue provide a ripe climate for disruption" (p.28). Likewise, Hathaway (1988) concluded that anxiety levels of building occupants increase when buildings are operated at or near maximum capacity. He further stated that "buildings may be psychologically full at approximately 80% to 90% of actual maximum capacity" (p.9). King and Marans (1979), in support of Hathaway and Bailey's findings, found that density can result in various behavioral problems. Because of the increase in school size, portable classrooms are becoming the norm at even modern school facilities (Maunier, 1967).

It is necessity to increase the amount of square footage per student in the construction of today's schools (Hawkins& Lilley, 1998; Phillips, 1997)). At one time open style schools became a trend. Webb (1976) studied the effect of the physical facility on the disruptive behavior of elementary school pupils in certain Georgia schools. He found that there was a relationship between the type of facility attended and student behavior. Students in an open space facility demonstrated a tendency to exhibit less disruptive behavior in school and students in traditional schools tended to be more disruptive in class (Garret, 1980). Bowers and Burkett (1987) concluded that students in buildings with a more desirable physical environment were disciplined, absent, or experienced health problems less frequently than students in a building with a less desirable physical environment.



Bailey, S.K. (1970). Disruption in urban public secondary schools. Washington D.C.: National Association of Secondary School Principals.

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)

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.

Garrett, D.M. (1980). The impact of school building age on the academic achievement of selected eleventh grade pupils in the state of Georgia. Dissertation Abstracts International, 41, 4231A. (University of Microfilms No. 81-06,912).

Hathaway, W.E. (1983). Lights, windows, color: Elements of the school environment. CEFPI Journal, 21(3), 33-35.

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

Hawkins, H.E., & Lilley, H. E. (1998). Guide for School Facility Appraisal. CEFPI, Scottsdale, AZ.

King, J. & Marans, R.W. (1979). The physical environment and learning process. (Report No. 320-ST2). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Architectural Research Laboratory.

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.

Maunier, R.L. (1967). The relationship of facilities to student academic achievement (Doctoral dissertation, Colorado State College, 1967). Dissertation Abstracts International, 28, 439A

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

Webb, J.T. (1976). The effect of the physical facility on the disruptive behavior of elementary school principals (Doctoral dissertation, University of Georgia, 1976). Dissertation abstracts International, 37, 7468A.
process. (Report No. 320-ST2). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Architectural Research Laboratory.

This summary was compiled by Elizabeth Jago and Ken Tanner

Posted: (April 1999)

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