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PHD - Doctor of Philosophy




It is commonly accepted that physical space has some effect on the educational experience and that teachers and students may respond with remedies if the actual classroom design (which encompasses the physical classroom, including furniture and fixed equipment) inhibits teaching and learning. Corrective responses include efforts to lean to see, or hear and be heard, rearrange furniture, and change class activity due to the nature of the physical space. I conducted this qualitative research to determine what constitutes typical remedial or corrective responses to the classroom, how prevalent these actions are, and the perceived effect of these actions on the educational experience of undergraduate students and teachers. I utilized a case study approach, including observation supported by surveys (solicited on social media), interviews, and document analysis, from participants of Boston, Massachusetts area universities. I collected and analyzed data using the User’s Environment Interaction Framework (UEIF: an environment-behavior construct) to discern behaviors resulting from the physical environment, and a modified Community of Inquiry model (CoI: an education construct) to evaluate their effect on teaching and learning, and I propose this integrated approach for future research. Findings indicate that most students did not think that their corrective responses substantially affected their learning experience. Students who did find them important were largely those who reported their personal efforts as the major determinant of a successful educational experience. Students who found them inconsequential were generally those who reported that other persons and events controlled their learning. Secondly, the research showed that students highly valued maintaining attention, which was an impetus for performing remedial actions. Thirdly, teachers characterized the scope of their adaptation measures due to the physical environment, as reconciling the need for added work, acknowledging the responsibility of a teacher to make modifications to work in the assigned classroom, and mitigating affected relationships with students. This research has implications for many constituents in higher education. I suggest further research to explore the relationship between self-reported actions and the locus of control construct, and to develop a better understanding of the perception of space, to improve post-occupancy evaluation tools and classroom design.



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