Identifying Relevant Variables for Understanding How School Facilities Affect Educational Outcomes
Bosch, Sheila Jones
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Many school facilities in the United States are old, out-of-date, poorly maintained, and lack specific design elements that are likely to enhance teaching, learning, behavior, and other desirable outcomes. This study proposed that one reason why previous research regarding the effects of the physical school environment on educational outcomes has had little impact on the quality of schools is because there is a lack of knowledge about these relationships. A multi-method approach was used to solicit information from educators and researchers familiar with school facility effects literature to develop a set of research priorities to guide future research. In Phase I, a literature analysis provided important physical and outcome variables to seed brainstorming lists used in following phases of the research and provided the basis for a gap analysis to identify unavailable information. A concept mapping methodology was utilized in Phase II to solicit feedback from a group of seventeen experienced educators who were asked to brainstorm a list of measures of student, school, or school district success, sort their final list of more than 100 items into categories that made sense to them, and rate each item regarding how important it is to monitor or otherwise track. Using a Delphi method, a series of four questionnaires was given to a group of experienced researchers who developed a list of physical variables plausibly related to educational outcomes, rated the importance of those items, developed hypotheses that included top-rated physical variables and top-rated outcome variables (i.e., measures of success rated by educators), and then selected from those hypotheses several that became the basis of the recommended research priorities for the field. These research priorities propose investigations of the relationships between a set of physical variables (including the provision of team work stations and faculty collaborative spaces, well-designed circulation spaces, spaces for quiet reflection, adaptable seating, daylighting in classrooms, and overall maintenance and building quality) and a variety of educational outcomes (e.g., achievement, behavior, satisfaction, affective performance).