Friday, September 01, 2006

Physical Features of Learning Environments

Below are identified some of the physical features of learning environments (classrooms) that can affect learning -

Noise can be defined as being unwanted sound. Thus although sound is a physical phenomena, nevertheless the interpretation and understanding of sound becomes a psychological process. The psychological effects of noise are centred around the experience of annoyance (negative feelings and irritability). For example, Kryter (1994) identifies three dimensions that relate to noise and how annoying it is -

a) Volume: This will interfere with communication and may cause physiological harm.

b) Predictability: Periodic bursts of noise are more annoying than non periodic, they are more arousing, require more attention and make communication harder (Glass & Singer 1972).

c) Perceived control: The more perceived control the less annoying the noise. For example, learned helplessness may be a response to continued efforts which fail to control the noise.

In addition noise can be made worse if -

  • It is perceived as unnecessary
  • Those making noise are unconcerned about the effects
  • The individual holds a belief that it will damage their health
  • The individual associates noise with fear
  • The individual is also unhappy about other aspects of their environment (Miedeman & Vos 1999)

Thus there are a significant amount of variables that influence how annoying or otherwise we find a sound to be. This means that when investigating this area, researchers will not usually be able to establish direct noise - behaviour causation, but rather will have to acknowledge the many factors that influence and shape our responses to noise.

Crowding. Density refers to the amount of people in a defined area, whereas crowding is that psychological interpretation of density. This means you could be in a very densely populated room (nightclub) but not feel crowded, indeed you may enjoy it, whereas at other times the same amount of people in a different place makes you feel crowded (on a bus). Thus the size of a learning environment (classroom, lab, lecture hall, etc) and the number of people in it and how you feel about the environment will determine whether you feel crowded or not.

Seating Arrangements.

The traditional form of classroom layout has individual desks facing the front of the classroom with the teachers desk and white/blackboard at the front. Whilst this allows for high degree of classrom control by the teacher, nevertheless it may be that such seating arrangements are not always beneficial for certain types of learning and eucational activities.


The quality and amount of light seesm to have affects on learning performance, which is why most modern classrooms have plenty of window space to let in the best source of light.


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