UK Study reveals a 16% impact of school design on pupils' learning progress

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Can classroom design have an effect on students' learning progress? The final results of a holistic, multi-level analysis carried out by the School of the Built Environment in University of Salford say yes.

According to the final results of the HEAD (Holistic Evidence and Design) study of the impact of the design of primary school, it is confirmed that the utility of the naturalness, individuality and stimulation (or more memorably, SIN) conceptual model can be a vehicle to organise and study the full range of sensory impacts experienced by an individual occupying a given space.

The research in this study focused on a holistic environment-human-performance model examining school and classroom spaces and relating these to individual pupil progress statistics. Researchers assessed 153 classrooms in 27 schools to measure school and classroom features. Data on the 3766 pupils who occupied those spaces were also collected, including the focal dependent variable of progress in learning. The underpinning hypothesis was that students' academic progress will be dependent on a full range of factors drawn from across all three of the design principles.

Seven key design parameters have been identified that together explain 16% of the variation in pupils' academic progress achieved. These are Light, Temperature, Air Quality, Ownership, Flexibility, Complexity and Colour. In this particular case the naturalness design principle accounts for around 50% of the impact on learning, with the other two accounting for roughly a quarter each.

The identification of the impact of the built environment factors on learning progress is a major new finding for schools' research, but also suggests that the scale of the impact of building design on human performance and wellbeing in general, is non-trivial and can be isolated.