Changing the physical conditions or built environment of settings, either by moving to a new building, or making physical changes to improve the structure, air quality, noise, light or temperature of an existing learning space.
Search terms: physical environment, building, physical setting, physical classroom environment, built environment, built environment, sound/noise, ventilation, air quality, lighting, colour
There are no meta-analyses of studies about the impact of the built environment on learning outcomes for early years educational settings. There is one small-scale randomised trial from 1980 which found effects in kindergarten, but it has limited causal warrant. There are studies based on correlations between features of the learning environment and outcomes for children but these go beyond the built environment and include wider features of the learning environment such as availability of resources and quality of interaction. These issues make it hard to establish causal connections between the impact of any physical changes to the learning environment and improvement in children’s learning. Overall there is not enough evidence to suggest a strong relationship between the built environment in early years settings with improved educational outcomes for children. Overall the evidence is weak and inconclusive.
Additional Cost Information
It is difficult to estimate the costs of changes to the built environment precisely, as they are usually part of capital spending, rather than annual budgets. For example, a new purpose-built nursery school for 100 children costs about £1-2 million up front, but is likely to be used by several generations of children. Improving air quality can be done relatively cheaply with better ventilation, filtration and the use of dehumidifiers where necessary. Overall, per child costs are estimated as low.
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- The Impact of School Buildings on Student Health and Performance. open_in_new
- Washington DC: The Center for Green Schools
- Bakó-Biró, Z., Clements-Croome, D. J., Kochhar, N., Awbi, H. B., & Williams, M. J.
- Ventilation rates in schools and pupils’ performance. open_in_new
- Building and Environment, 48, 215-223.
- Daisey, J. M., Angell, W. J., & Apte, M. G.
- Indoor air quality, ventilation and health symptoms in schools: an analysis of existing information. open_in_new
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- Evans, G. W., & Maxwell, L.
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- Hill, G. R.
- The effects of selected environmental factors on the productivity of students in kindergarten as measured by the Clymer Barrett Pre-Reading Battery open_in_new
- Doctoral dissertation, Florida Atlantic University). (Order No. 8028438) Available from ProQuest dissertations & Theses Global (303002517)
- Mashburn, A. J.
- Quality of social and physical environments in preschools and children's development of academic, language, and literacy skills. open_in_new
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- Maxwell, L. E., & Evans, G. W.
- The effects of noise on pre-school children's pre-reading skills. open_in_new
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- McLean, P. D.
- A Study of the Relationship Between Building Conditions, Selected Teacher Qualifications, and Student Attendance in High and Low Performing Elementary Schools. open_in_new
- Doctoral dissertation
- Melhuish, E. C., Phan, M. B., Sylva, K., Sammons, P., Siraj‐Blatchford, I., & Taggart, B.
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- Molfese, V. J., Modglin, A., & Molfese, D. L.
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- The effects of environmental and classroom noise on the academic attainments of primary school children. open_in_new
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- Tanner, C. K.
- The influence of school architecture on academic achievement. open_in_new
- Journal of Educational Administration, 38(4), 309-330.
- Uline, C., & Tschannen-Moran, M.
- The walls speak: The interplay of quality facilities, school climate, and student achievement. open_in_new
- Journal of Educational Administration, 46(1), 55-73.
- Woolner, P., Hall, E., Higgins, S., McCaughey, C., & Wall, K.
- A sound foundation? What we know about the impact of environments on learning and the implications for Building Schools for the Future. open_in_new
- Oxford Review of Education, 33(1), 47-70.
- Woolner, P., McCarter, S., Wall, K. & Higgins, S.
- Changed Learning Through Changed Space. When can a Participatory Approach to the Learning Environment Challenge Preconceptions and Alter Practice? open_in_new
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Summary of effects
|Single Studies||Effect size||FSM effect size|
|Hill, G. R. (1980)||
|Maxwell, L. E., & Evans, G. W. (2000)||
|Indicative effect size||0.00|
The right hand column provides detail on the specific outcome measures or, if in brackets, details of the intervention or control group.
Although the single studies presented both show positive effect sizes (confidence intervals are wide and cross zero; see individual studies for more detail), the indicative effect size has been estimated as zero because of the limited causal warrant of these studies.