Some Aspects of an Ideal Classroom: Color, Carpet, Light and Furniture
(Edward B, Nuhfer (firstname.lastname@example.org), Director of Faculty Development, California State University of the Channel Islands)
When I was at Idaho State University (ISU), I prepared this paper in late 2004 for Idaho State University's Council for Teaching and Learning at the request of then Vice President Jonathan Lawson. Because many colleges have linked to and used this paper as a resource, I continue to update it from time to time and now will maintain the updates to the paper on a server outside Idaho State University.
While drafting the original report, I made use of the "33 Principles of Educational Design" published by University of Wisconsin's Dr. Jeffrey A. Lackney, (see schoolstudio.engr.wisc.edu/33principles.html). Specific principles from that listing are referred to, where applicable, in this report. There are also several excellent online checklists hot-linked at the end of this paper. These are worth consulting by individuals involved in design, contracting, and implementation.
Several pages of this report contain examples of good and bad that come from the ISU campus. I encourage university faculty to assemble examples of both good classroom space they especially like and designs that proved detrimental and cause concern or irritation. Submit to me at email@example.com, if possible with digital photos, and I will add all contributions to this online report.
Throughout classroom design literature, there are horror stories of rooms designed and contracted without teachers' real involvement in classroom design. Successful products are the outcome of respect and open two-way communication (see Horne, 2004). Success rarely results through excluding available faculty expertise and regular consultation required for success. Those who work in a space have the greatest incentive in which to maximize its use and improve its atmosphere. That means that ALL those who work in it (faculty and students) not only need to be able to express suggestions for the design, but also should feel a degree of responsibility for ownership in its decor and maintenance.
The product is an extremely honest reflection of the collaborative process. The theme that the best learning environments should take cues from homes, which display the kinds of space that people themselves choose to live in and maintain, occurs again and again in the literature of classroom design. When planners and administrators are attuned to this theme's implications, the final product, the classroom, carries an expression that typifies the warmth, security, and spirit of support found in a home. When design arises from exclusivity, it becomes evident in the product of an authoritarian space that manifests the chilling exclusivity through which teachers and students were held at arm's length during decisions.
The literature shows that, in general, faculty prefer classrooms that are wider rather than long. They want the wide wall to be the front of the classroom for both the presentation and the greater intimacy with students that this arrangement provides. Jeroen Kortekaas, an experienced architect in Shanghai, China, conveyed to me via email on May 22, 2007, that he considers ideal classroom dimensions of this shape to be about 8 meters x 10 meters (roughly 26 ft x 33 ft). This paper proceeds from the basic concept that an adequate room shape for teaching students is already a given. Rooms designed like tunnels or for optimizing student credit hours rather than student learning can be improved, but they can't be made into "very good" instructional environments, even through the most detailed attention to light, color, furniture, or even technology.
I am a scientist with expertise in college level instruction, learning, levels of thinking and assessment gained through about fifteen years of faculty development in four institutions. I am neither an architectural designer nor a physical plant expert. This is information provided from an instructional perspective and not as a policy, prescription, or a template. I approach faculty development with the philosophy that developers support instructors in meeting instructors' aspirations. My work is to learn those, and my main contributions arise by being able to broaden options and increase choices. That philosophy and experience is behind this report.
Effects of color and light are inseparable, but paint and fixtures are separate contract and purchase items, so I organize these topics individually. A wide variety of literature discusses human reaction to color, which ranges from legitimate literature on physiological effects to a multitude of papers based on pseudoscience and even superstition. With respect to classrooms, few solid case studies exist, and most of these are on elementary and K-12 classrooms. By far, the best syntheses of the effects of room color on humans are in the architectural literature. One book, in particular, Color, Environment and Human Response, (Mahnke, 1996) stands out above all others in its usefulness to classroom design. In May, 2007, Dr. Mahnke made me aware of a new volume (Meerwein, Rodeck, and Mahnke, F., 2007) that as of this writing is not yet available, but based on Mahnke's earlier work, I am certain it will be superb.
A book consulted by many college educators, Brain-Based Learning (Jensen, 2000) makes some strong claims about color, largely based on the book, The Power of Color (Walker, 1991). The claims don't rest on substantial data. There are four useful studies not cited by Jensen, and these corroborate only a minor part of Walker's claims. The first is a study of 10,000 children ages 5-19 by Heinrich Frieling (1957) for color preference. The second is a series of studies on elementary school students in Canada by Dr. Harry Wohlfarth (summarized in Mahnke, 1996), which revealed profound positive physiological and educational effects from improved light and color. The third is the University of Nevada doctoral dissertation of Ellen Grangaard on the effects of light and color in elementary schools. A fourth is the reported experiences of Mahnke (1996) based on his extensive architectural career and his special area of study in light and color.
Colors best suited for classrooms reduce agitation, apprehension and promote a sense of well-being. In brief, colors that reduce tension and anxiety produce a home-like atmosphere, in contrast to an "institutional" one. This corresponds with Educational Design Principle No. 7: "Consider Home as a Template for School." Wall colors are important; the hanging of artwork in various colors will not significantly compensate for otherwise monotonous or disagreeable wall colors. "Institutional white," although acceptable for some ceilings, is a common wall color choice that has little justification for widespread use. Manke's Chapter 5, "Those Achromatic Environments," provides a particularly damning indictment: "White, when accompanied by high levels of natural or artificial light, may also play havoc with human vision." The cited reaction to white is a teacher's anathema: "bored disinterest." Mahnke summarizes his experience with "institutional white": "During my many years of collecting reference material on color and light, I have not yet come across any pronouncement that supports white and off-white on psychological or physiological grounds for prompting its wide use." In Grangaard's study (1993), she replaced white classroom walls with blue hues, and changed lighting to full-spectrum light. As a result, students' academic standing improved and their off-task behaviors decreased.
So, what colors have proven particularly beneficial? The consensus from the above studies is that light yellow-orange, beige, pale or light green, or blue-green are good choices for three of the four wall surfaces. Pastel oranges promote cheerful, lively and sociable moods that are desirable in a college classroom. Pastel yellow has a similar cheerful effect. Greens and blue greens in pastels are calming and provide a good background color suited to relaxation into tasks that require concentration. Deep or loud tones are appropriate for trim and what Mahnke refers to as "incidental areas." If used over dominant room areas, deep tones and glaring colors promote irritability. Deep reds, browns (excluding natural wood finish, which is good) and dark blues are particularly detrimental.
The fourth wall, the front of the room that faces the students, should be a different complementary or at least a darker hue than the other walls. Institutions rarely depart from painting all four walls the same color. Rendering the front wall with a different color/tone is not merely for aesthetics. The different hue and color at the front of the room helps to reduce students' eyestrain as they look up and down to write notes, etc. (Mahnke, 1996). A deep tone on any one wall can reduce glare. If the front wall turns out for some reason to be impractical for the different shade, a side wall should have the complementary or darker hue. ISU's College of Technology's Room, RFC 379 designed by Dr. Geoff Dean, used a deep blue-violet on one wall, a color that is complementary to the existing carpet, to reduce glare (Figure 1). That room is well liked by its occupants.
Figure 1. RFC 379 shows accent wall at left that reduces glare. Note also color in furniture and natural wood in front presentation area, and movable tables and chairs suitable for versatile instructional modalities. Inset at lower right is front of same room with Dr. Geoff Dean.
In contrast, hallways serve for movement rather than engagement. They should be more colorful and provide both vibrancy and personality through complementary colors. Mahnke (1996) notes good effects with light orange walls offset by blue doors and light green walls with low-chroma red (not tone of fire doors). If hallways are wide enough, they can serve as gathering places for students to have academic discussions. Blackboards and small benches in critical hallway areas outside classrooms can promote the after-class discussions needed when classrooms themselves must be vacated on time to make way for other scheduled classes.
There is only a little research evidence about educational benefits in relation to particular floor coverings (see http://www.carpet-health.org/pdf/GA_Dissertation02.pdf), but instructors clearly favor carpeted floors over other types. Recommendation to use carpet follows teachers' wishes and thus is in accord with Educational Design Principle No. 17: "Regard Teachers as Professionals." The Ideal Learning Environment Study, a national survey of public school teachers conducted by Beth Schapiro & Associates, (http://www.carpet-health.org/pdf/TeacherSurvey.pdf) examined teachers' opinions regarding the relationship between interior design and academic performance. The results of the survey indicated an accepted belief that good interior design promotes a positive learning environment. Almost three-fourths of the teachers surveyed considered a school's interior design "very important" for creating a good learning environment. Yet, only 18 percent gave their classroom an "A" for overall design. Safety, comfort, lighting, and acoustics topped the lists of desired features. Teachers recognized comfortable seating and workspaces for students, adequate lighting levels in the classroom and an environment with good acoustics as important. A majority of the teachers listed carpet as the preferred classroom floor covering because it helps prevent falls, provides comfort, absorbs noise, and allows for flexibility in the classroom. Teachers who had carpeted classrooms rated their classroom space higher than did those without carpet.
For smart classrooms, the site at http://www.kaleidoscopeconsulting.com/ states: "Carpeting is absolutely essential." They recognized tile floors as better than concrete floors, but noted: "Carpeted floors are clearly preferred." Acoustics and reduction of "tinny" sounds were the stated reasons for their preference.
Codes file:///at http///clctext.tlt.psu.edu/Classrooms/Design/ specify that "carpet should have greater than 12 stitches per inch; yarn weight of 20 to 30 ounces, multi-dark colors to not show spills; stain, moisture & wear resistant, with impervious backing material not affected by moisture." Carpet color and wall colors should complement one another and not clash.
Health and Comfort Classroom design resources usually consider aesthetics and practical illumination, rather than health effects of lighting. The quality of literature on lighting is similar to the mix described for color. Pseudoscience nonsense about effects of light run rampant in the literature, but in a few applications, "light therapy" has a solid scientific basis. Part of light's effects on humans is related to the spectral emissions of different lighting. Effects of indoor lighting light don't arise solely from light that enters the eyes, but also from light that strikes the skin. Mahnke (1996) provides a balanced view of literature and supports the consensus established through the serious studies: the fluorescent bulb commonly used in the institutional fluorescent lighting may be less than optimal for learning and for health.
Fluorescent lighting is a common choice by institutions because it is energy efficient. There are now sufficient convincing studies to show significant benefits to replacing the common fluorescent bulbs, which emit wavelengths with an artificial loading toward longer red and yellow wavelengths, with bulbs that produce whiter light or, in the best case, full spectrum light that's also more enriched in blues and violets and is closer to natural sunlight. Olszewski and Breiling (1996) note that one practical reason for needed change is that artificial light that is rich in yellowish wavelengths produces a glare from white paper that results in eyestrain.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and "Winter Blues" are genuinely debilitating conditions that act against learning (http://www.nmha.org/infoctr/factsheets/27.cfm). Its treatment (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/seasonalaffectivedisorder.html) through exposure to particular light is one of the "light therapies" that is well grounded in research. Pocatello's location places ISU students and faculty above the 40th parallel, where Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and "Winter Blues" affect up to 20% of people (Figure 2) by inducing some depression that leads to resultant reduced productivity. Location is compounded by the fact that the academic year spans the seasons with shortest daylight hours. SAD disproportionately affects young college age students, and up to 80% of SAD cases are women. SAD is often treated with light. Recent literature shows that such treatments do not always require full-spectrum lighting. Mild SAD cases respond to the hotter burning fluorescent white lights (paradoxically marketed as "cool white fluorescent").
Figure 2. Occurrence of Seasonal Affective Disorder and Winter Blues in continental United States (from National Institute of Mental Health).
Field tests reveal definite benefits of full spectrum light over even cool white fluorescent light in classrooms. The revelation that fluorescent lights affected health began with Dr. John Ott (see Ott, 1976). George C. Brainard, Professor of Neurology and Pharmacology at Jefferson University Medical School in Philadelphia and a researcher on light, is critical of the claims of pseudoscientists and is cautious to jump prematurely to conclusions. However, of the field studies he notes: " ...the remarkable thing is that each of those studies suggests the same finding ... that the quality of light has an impact on either the health or the performance of students" (http://www.full-spectrum-lighting.com/durotest/Benefits Of Vita-Lite.htm).
Psychology Today Staff (1994) reported on the positive effects of full spectrum lighting based on both the work of Warren Hathaway and W. London (1988). London installed full-spectrum lighting in three elementary school classrooms during a December holiday break. One result was a 65% decrease in student absences. Harmon (1991) also noted illness and fatigue in students caused by the usual institutional fluorescent classroom lighting were symptoms that were reversed when a change to full-spectrum lighting occurred. There are several competing hypotheses about why observed benefits occur. London proposed that conventional fluorescent lighting suppresses the immune system by elevating blood cortisol levels.
Although full-spectrum light bulbs cost much more than ordinary institutional bulbs, advantages seem to justify these costs. Patricia DeOria, Director of Riverside School in Richmond, Virginia, admitted to feeling skeptical about the initial request she received for installing full spectrum lighting in classrooms. Just one week after their installation, her skepticism changed. She wrote, "It was noticeable that the atmosphere at Riverside School was much calmer within a matter of days." (http://www.full-spectrum-lighting.com/durotest/Benefits Of Vita-Lite.htm).
Full spectrum light improves room occupants' color perception. Professional occupations, such as dentistry, where optimal color perceptions are important, increasingly demand such lighting. Here at ISU, only the art department rooms have full spectrum lighting (Darrel Buffaloe, 3/25/05, personal communication). Classrooms and offices, particularly those without windows or those used at night, could well benefit from simple changes in room color and conversion to full spectrum lighting.
A factor of fluorescent lighting that affects humans is the 60 cycle per second flicker associated with common fluorescent lights with older magnetic ballasts. The flicker, although unconsciously perceived, produces exhaustion and negative moods (Ott, 1976). Since 1991, electronic ballasts have been available that bring this cycle up to 20,000 cycles per second, thus eliminating flicker and its effects. The electronic ballasts are much more efficient and save significantly on power bills. Several state government web sites document that economic benefit, and ISU's physical plant director Darrel Buffaloe (3/25/05, personal communication) noted that ISU has saved about $100, 000 each year as result of switching to electronic ballasts. Most, possibly all, of ISU has now been retrofitted with electronic ballasts.
In the future, LED (light-emitting diode) lights may be able to provide full spectrum light with power consumption below that of fluorescent bulbs. However, my discussions with officers of Cree, Inc., a leading manufacturer and research firm of LED lights, indicates that LED room illumination is about "five years to a decade away" and certainly too distant in the future to affect classroom design aspects in the upcoming Rendezvous Center. These findings on lighting support Educational Design Principle No. 28: "Maximize Natural and Full-Spectrum Lighting" and Educational Design Principle No. 29: "Design Healthy Buildings."
Practical Classroom Considerations Aside from the spectral and health issues of different lighting, abundant experience clearly shows that proper lighting design is highly distinguishable from unsophisticated design in both its appearance and in practical utilization. Light requirements in a single room vary throughout the time of day the room is utilized and in accord with weather and seasons. An instructor's ability to control room lighting is paramount, and the more lights are equipped with controls that permit continuous adjustment, the better. It is imperative to control any lights that illuminate projection screens TV consoles and "blackboards."
Light's interaction with walls and ceilings can promote enthusiasm and concentration or can produce glare that detracts from moods needed to engage material optimally. The web site (http://www.designlights.org/downloads/classroom_guide.pdf) "Classroom Lighting Knowhow," cautions "Don't guess" regarding walls and ceiling surfaces. (This particular web site is extremely useful in providing information on light fixtures and their orientations, taking into account natural lighting and intended use). Planners should verify the reflectance of flooring and finishes before installing them in order to obtain the desired result. Mahnke (1996) recommends a general reflectance range of 20% for floors, 40% to 70% for walls and 80 to 90% for ceilings to promote optimal visual conditions.
Classroom designers refer to layered (single and multiple) lighting. Figures 3-5 come from http://www.classroomdesignforum.org/Pages/Light fixture differences.html and they illustrate the single layer concept of simple ceiling fixtures. The three photos that follow greatly illustrate the benefits of simple changes in just single layers. These are followed by photos of two of ISU's classrooms (Figure 7).
Figure 3 shows ugly shadow effects produced by recessed fluorescent lights directed by open-cell parabolic louvers. The shadows shown here in this empty room will also appear on room occupants' faces. Designers should avoid such louvers and their effects.
Figure 4 shows improvement with a simple change to the recessed lighting by replacement of louvers with prismatic plastic lenses and lightening of wall colors. Shadows still exist, but are much less pronounced. Most ISU rooms' fixtures have prismatic plastic lenses.
Figure 5 shows an even greater improvement. Pendant fixtures that provide direct down and indirect up illumination replace recessed lights. This is the best illumination of the three. Conversions to this type may be economical and should be considered. Control of light during projection of AV aids usually occurs by ability to turn off panels of lights near a screen, by dimmable controls on fluorescent lights, or by secondary dimmable punch lights (not shown here but visible in Figures 11 and 12.
The Physical Sciences Building, one of ISU's newer and most attractive buildings, did suffer in design of some classrooms. In some cases, minor modifications would make significant improvements; in others, changes would be now costly. Lighting controls should incorporate convenience and safety. A room that lacks a simple light switch at each entry door connected to enough lighting to navigate the room is probably a safety hazard and violates Educational Design Principle No. 9: "Design for Safe Schools." Windowless Physical Sciences 104 has such a panel (Figure 7) and lacks simple light switches at doors needed for initial navigation. This flaw should be avoided in future rooms.
Figure 6. Compare lighting in ISU's Physical Sciences Room 108 with the three prior photos. Room 108 features an unusual arrangement of indirect light from hanging fixtures and direct light from flush mounted fluorescent lights with louvers. Yet, the result, which reveals both glare and shadows, seems less than optimal. The bolted down desks with uncomfortable seats on swing arms dictates lecture as the pedagogy and leaves little flexibility for other approaches. The cramming of furniture forces students to enter only through the room's center and makes walls inaccessible. The AV aids here, wired in a bizarre series mode, result in undignified fumbling, until one masters the unique peculiarities. It's not an "ideal classroom."
Figure 7 Windowless lecture hall Physical Sciences 104, lacks conventional light switches at entrance doors. The electronic panel at doorways must be mastered simply to gain lighted access. This can be a safety hazard when it leaves an unfamiliar person groping around in a dark room in search of a light switch. This room too uses uncomfortable swing-arm seats.
"Best practices" incorporate multiple layering of light in front, rear, and sides as well as overhead in order to reduce glare, prevent shadow zones and maximize control by the instructor as well as interest and atmosphere for students. Figure 8 from http://www.classroomdesignforum.org/shows the concept enacted in a large elongate lecture room --a bad shape-- able to hold about 300 students. It is not hard to conceive about how unpleasant such a room would be without this sophisticated lighting. The high ceilings, color, and excellent lighting optimize the room's aesthetics despite its dimensions. Examples of award-winning lighting designs in classrooms with more optimal dimensions and tiered seating are available at http://lightingdesignlab.com/locations/epri_uw.html.
Figure 8. Layering concept combines direct/indirect ceiling fluorescent light with secondary direct spot lights as well as wall lights, which accent walls and add shadow-free light to desks nearest the walls.
A practice noted in some ISU rooms is orienting fixtures at right angles to window-bearing walls (Figure 9) rather than parallel. The latter arrangement has an advantage in that it permits automatic dimming of the bank of lights adjacent to windows, thus promoting both savings in electricity and uniform lighting of a classroom.
The vast majority of faculty prefer classrooms with windows. The benefits of natural light have already been emphasized, and classrooms with windows, with the exception of large lecture halls, are more attractive as a rule than those without. Windows also add complexity in control of ambient light, which is essential to permit viewing of visual aids and to prevent glare. Mahnke's excellent book addresses the issues of windows and window coverings in his Chapter 7. The Smarter College Classrooms web page (http://classrooms.com/guidlines.html - orientation) provides some excellent points based on design experience.
Educational Design Principle No. 7: "Consider Home as a Template for School" is a guideline to bear in mind regarding window coverings, within practical limits of course. Ideally, much as in the home, light control should provide the options of clear viewing of the outdoors, ability to screen with subdued light through translucent or partial shading, and ability to darken the room with an opaque covering. ISU commonly uses an "institutional gray," Venetian-type blind, doubtless a choice made by cost and maintenance considerations. Such blinds, if well fitted, serve the purpose of light control well. When defective, damaged or fitted poorly, they don't serve their function at all, so good initial installation and prompt maintenance are essential to a room's suitability. The same color blind in every room is monotonous. Venetian blinds in accent colors would retain the practicality of the blind and improve mood and interest of the room immensely. In a few places, alternatives such as curtains, vertical blinds, or cellular shades should be considered.
Providing choice and versatility to instructors is probably the most important of all factors in selecting furniture. Much classroom furniture is selected and installed by designers and architects who not only do not teach, but have seldom experienced having to learn for hours seated with and being unable to stretch or move about. Furniture selected by those with unsophisticated experience who equate "teaching" with "lecturing" often results in classrooms with bolted-down furniture and seats set on swing arms. Such furniture forces "teaching" toward an exercise in public speaking. Swing-arm chairs are generally judged as uncomfortable by students after about 30 or 40 minutes, and murderously so for class sessions that extend past about an hour. Because learning outcomes are the most important product of a university, factors detrimental to those outcomes must be avoided at any cost. Bolted-down furniture that prevents teachers from using most available active learning modalities is one of the most detrimental factors to a learning environment.
In accord with Educational Design Principle No. 12: "Design for a Variety of Learning Groups and Spaces," furniture that permits versatility of arrangements and multiple methods of instruction is best. It should supply table top work space able to be converted easily into all of the following: conventional lecture arrangements, small groups from two to four, medium groups of 8 or 10, large groups that simulate board meetings, and facing arrangements such as case-study seating. These are all essential. Many instructional methods make use of the classroom walls. Thus, walls need to be accessible. Bolted-down chair arrangements designed to cram the maximum number of students into a room space, and even too many movable desks in a room, prevent clearing space to allow use of walls for poster sessions, active group learning activities with post-it notes and standing group work. Some teachers want settings from time to time that eliminate the barriers provided by tabletops. They may want to simply sit, without barriers, facing one another in a circle or circles. Conversely, they may want to arrange chairs into a concave theatre type arrangement. The furniture in Museum 432 (Figure 9 & 9a) and RFC 379 in the College of Technology consists of movable chairs and tables.
Figure 9 Center for Teaching and Learning classroom in Museum 432 in 2005. Dimensions are excellent with nice natural light from windows and the optimal long wall set for presentations. The tables are large enough for good working space but small and light enough to permit easy, versatile rearrangements by one person. Users generally like the room, but great improvements could be made. Minor changes in wall color and blind color, and repair of leaking windows would make a huge difference. The room has wireless Internet but needs a ceiling-mounted LCD. A final more costly change, to install layered lights; full spectrum lights with dimmers parallel to windows, dimmable track lights in front and rear and a change-out of semi-gloss ceiling tiles could make this an "ideal classroom."
Figure 9a Center for Teaching and Learning classroom in Museum 432 in 2006 afterlow cost improvements. The room colors were changed in accord with the recommendations of Mahnke (1996) with the warm colors selected that provide an inviting atmosphere for discussions. Note how the front wall is a darker shade than the side and back walls. The off-center whiteboard & greenboard were bothreplaced with two centered blackboards. Full spectrium fluorescent light bulbs replaced the older bulbs. roken blinds were replaced and finally the carpet, which had been patched with duct tape for several years. The response was fast and surprising. Student commented on teacher' evaluation forms about the nice feel of the room and the attraction of being in there.
The single disadvantage is that these tables are not easily removed to allow arrangements without barriers. The furniture in Museum 432 came from Idaho Correctional Industries. The identical table made by Correctional Industries with collapsible legs overcomes the single disadvantage mentioned. This allows convenient stacking of tables to the side, when a teacher desires chair-only arrangements. The tables are 18" deep, 60" long, cost $125 per table, and take approximately 3-4 weeks to deliver. Chairs shown in figure 9 cost $60 each. A room equipped with similar movable tables and chairs but with higher quality furniture was shown in Figure 1.
A faculty/TA survey at North Carolina found preferences of both groups for furniture to be the same (http://cdac.unc.edu/classroominformation/analysis.htm)
Figure 10 Lecture Hall 10, upper campus, Instructor's view. This provides an example where architecture drove the pedagogy, rather than the desired reverse. It is regarded by professors as one of the worst rooms to teach in. The pie-shaped rooms are windowless with sloping floors and bolted down furniture. Such features insure that these rooms will not be user-friendly for any modality other than lecture as the dominant pedagogy. Instructor's view shown here reveals a need to stare directly into fluorescent lights as result of sloping floors & ceilings. Students also have to stare into fluorescent ligts to view images projected through elevated televisions (Figure 10a). The lighting is the worst feature. Good features are that the theatre seats here are more comfortable (when maintained--many of these are now broken) than those with swing arms found in Physical sciences and the natural wood finish is attractive.
Blackboards vesus WhiteBoards
There seems to be no particular pedagogical advantage to either. A survey at University of North Carolina indicated a strong preference for the older blackboards over either greenboards or whiteboards (http://cdac.unc.edu/classroominformation/analysis.htm). Whiteboards, although attractive, do prove troublesome for a variety of reasons: the markers disappear and leave instructors without (chalk seems less frequently stolen), they dry up easily and quickly become unusable, a teacher accidentally uses a permament marker, rather than the dry-erase markers, and ruins the board. However in rooms with electronic gear and computers, use of chalk boards produces chalk dust over time that settles over the circuits, causes overheating, and ruins vulnerable equipment.
Figure 10a Lecture Hall 10, upper campus, students' view. Students too get the glare of fluorescent lights. A good feature is the tall ceiling at the front of the room, so one wonders why large screen televisions are used for viewing, rather than a full-screen projection. Student-teacher intimacy is hampered in this elongate, pie shaped room, with the instructor likely feeling somewhat chained to a console. Wall space is unusable because of cramming of immobile furniture to the wall edges. Cramming furniture to the walls limits professors' mobility in the room, This causes difficulty in distributing handouts quickly, or interacting well with students. Lecture Center room 10 is a "poster child" example for how not to construct a classroom.
Figure 11. Physical Sciences 144 from students' view. Although "low-tech" and windowless, this is a well-liked classroom by occupants. The carpeted room holds 80 students but is wide enough to allow teacher-student contact. The instructor is not tied to lecture modality by the architecture or the furniture. The movable desks, dual screens and variable projection systems permit great versatility and creativity. Design defects include insufficient outlets by the AV podium and placement of room light controls on the other side of the room from the podium. A ceiling-mounted LCD projector conversion to full spectrum lights, and perhaps a bit of color on the front walls would be desirable additions and could qualify this as an "ideal classroom."
Figure 12. Physical Sciences 144 from instructor's view. An especially good feature is wall access. The higher walls hold materials frequently referred to in class. The lower walls are used for group work with poster-sized sticky notes. Movable desks quickly allow access to lower walls. The combination of fluorescent and dimmable punch lights, with separate controls for several panels of the fluorescent lights, make this room good for use of AV aids. Note that all access doors have convenient conventional light switches for entry.
Additional Useful Sites
http://www.edfacilities.org/rl/teachers_workplaces.cfm National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities
http://classrooms.com/principles.html - design Classroom Design Principles that Improve Teaching & Learning
http://classrooms.com/principles.html - tips Tips for Better College Classrooms
http://classrooms.com/principles.html - checklist Top 10 Design Checklist of Most frequently-overlooked Details
http://classrooms.com/ The smarter college classroom home page, a source of classroom information for colleges, architects, & facilities planners
Frieling, Heinrich, 1957, Psychologische Raumgestaltung und Farhdynamik (Psychological Room Design and Color Dynamic). Gottingen: Musterschmidt Verlag.
Grangaard, E., 1993, The Effect of Color and Light on Selected Elementary School Students: University of Nevada, Ph. D. Dissertation.
Harmon, D. B., 1991, The coordinated classroom: in Light: Medicine of the Future, J. Lieberman, Sante Fe, Bear & Co. Publishing.
Horne, S. C., 1998, Shared visions? Architects' and teachers' perceptions on the design of classroom environments: IDATER98, Loughborough University.
Jensen, E., 2000, Brain-Based Learning (revised): San Diego, Brain Store Publishing.
London, W., 1988, Brain/Mind Bulletin Connections: New Sense Bulletin, Los Angeles, April, v. 13, 7c.
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Meerwein, G., Rodeck, B., and Mahnke, F., 2007, Color - Communication in Architectural Space: Birkhäuser Basel.
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Ott, John N. (1976, August/September). Influence of fluorescent lights on hyperactivity and learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 9:7, 22-27.
Psychology Today Staff, 1994, A Case of Daylight Robbery: March/April. Document ID 1501.
Walker, M., 1991, The Power of Color: Garden City Park, NY, Avery Publishing.