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Physical Environment

What is the definition and importance of physical environment in the classroom?

What is the definition and importance of physical environment in the classroom?

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rcoats14 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The physical environment of the classroom is talking about the way a classroom is set up.  Some of the key elements are accessibility, visibility, and distractability.

The materials in the room should be accessible to the students as needed.  The students should know where supplies are and be able to access them.  Also, part of having an accessible environment is having the furniture arranged so that the teacher and students can easily move about the classroom.  The teacher should be able to easily access all students in order to solve a discipline problem or help with an assignment.

Visibility refers to the students' ability to see the teacher, board, projections screen, etc.  When arranging the desks, the teacher should sit in the desks to ensure that students will be able to see.  Also, the teacher should be able  to see the students at all times.  Students shouldn't be hidden behind a bookcase or filing cabinet.  During small group instruction, the teacher should be positioned so that he or she can see all the students.

Distractability refers to the inherent distractions of a classroom.  Things such as pencil sharpeners, windows, doors, trash cans, etc. can cause distractions to some students.  The teacher should take into account the individual students when creating a seating arrangement in order to accommodate for students who may become distracted.

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besure77 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The physical environment of the classroom concerns everything about a classroom including but not limited to classroom size, arrangement of desks, bulletin boards, temperature, number of students in the classroom, windows, colors on the walls, acoustics, lighting, organization, etc. Physical environment of the classroom is very important to student success.

In order to meet the needs of all students it is important to have a classroom that complies to all learners. To begin with, lighting is very important. There should be both well lit and dim areas of the room. There should also be plenty of room left for the children to get up and move safely if they need to. Classrooms should also have a small lounging area that may contain a comfy chair or sofa. Quiet areas are very important as well as areas where students can listen to materials on cassette.

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brettd eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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If you take all the attributes of a physical environment - lighting, acoustics, size, comfort, safety, access to technology, etc. - and put them together, they have a profound affect on the way in which students are able to learn.  A positive physical environment adds to the educational experience, while a negative one can prohibit learning.

For example, and I am not complaining here, it's just a reality, but I have taught in a 25 year old portable for the last ten years.  It has electrical issues, the roof leaks when it rains, and it is typically 55 degrees or so in the mornings when I arrive.  The desks are small and from the 1970's, and the fire sprinklers are merely decorative, as they are not hooked up to water of any kind.  All of these issues affect learning in my classroom in that students who are cold or too hot are distracted and moody, students that are uncomfortable have a hard time focusing, and the fact that I worry about my and my students' safety distracts me.

While not the most important element in a classroom experience, and there are certainly a variety of other factors that come into play on any teaching day, physical environment can nonetheless be the deciding factor with regards to student learning.

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missy575 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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A classroom must always be safe. The physical environment is becoming more and more important in terms of classroom safety and management in today's society.

Buildings that are newly constructed are beginning to eliminate large windows, windows near doors and outdoor-only locks. The indoor key hole has become an added safety feature.

For fire code and building safety, massive groups of wires from computers and the like are being removed, there need to be passageways to the exit and even limitations of paper on walls have been made.

In terms of classroom management, I think it is important to be able to get to any student in 2 seconds or less, just in case of an emergency. So, I make my rows wider in some spots so I have great passageways to every student's desk.  This also makes it easy for me to move about the room when I am teaching and can discipline often just by putting my hand on a desk or shoulder for students to know I will act if necessary. For more on classroom management google Fred Jones, discipline guru.

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The definition of physical environment is simply the physical characteristics of the room.  This refers to things like the size of the room, how dark or light it is, what the temperature is like, whether it has carpeting or just concrete, etc.

The major importance of the physical environment is that it can affect students' comfort and, to some extent, their ability to learn.  Students who are uncomfortable are unlikely to learn as well as those who are comfortable.

In addition, the environment can affect the morale of students.  If they feel their classroom is physically worse than those of richer kids, for example, they might be discouraged and upset and less willing to learn.

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thewanderlust878 | Student

Great question! I really like all of the previous ideas posted on here as well. I agree that the classroom environment should be focused on the student's and their learning styles/habits and not the teachers. Unfortunately it is harder to do that, especially in upper level education such as college and possibly even high school because more often than not a teacher or professor does not have a classroom of their own but instead a small office as they switch from room to room for various classes. I also recommend the book mentioned in answer #18 (I've read it and it is very fascinating). 

Hope this helps!

buster101 | Student

Debbie Diller has an excellent book on the subject of physical environment.  It's called Spaces and Places:  Designing the Classroom for Literacy (ISBN-13: 9781571107220).  I've been teaching for 13 years and, because of this book, I decided to get rid of my desk this year.  Visibility is important, but the focus should be on making sure that every inch of the room is for student learning.  Diller really zeros in on pre-planning your room for the best interest of the students, NOT the teacher.  It's an excellent resource for teachers, as are all of her materials.

arisha14 | Student
What a cute answer there #15 :D But according to me physical environment means the temperature in the classroom, it's size, it's colour, arrangement of various objects AND, most importantly the class fellows and the teahers. To me, it is as important as studying, and next to understanding and exploring.
mlmccrary999 | Student
In reply to #1: If your classroom is dark kids will fall asleep. If it is cold they will wake up better... If its too cold they will dislike your class room
creativethinker | Student

This topic could encompass a life-long study or could be as simple as adding color or music to the classroom environment.  I have found that figuring out the purpose for whatever you do to modify a learning environment is more important than just "decorating" your classroom.  If you want the "whole enchilada" of what works and why, I recommend the book  ENVIRONMENTS for LEARNING by Eric Jensen to be the excellent, whether you are teaching preschoolers or college students.

Here are four aspects he discusses in his book:

  • Safety, ergonomics, and temperature affect learning
  • Lighting, color, and peripheral stimuli improve performance
  • Noise inhibits or encourages learning
  • Toxic pollutants hinder cognition

As with all teaching, knowing "why" is as important as knowing "how."

mervat23 | Student

classroom environment refers to the physical environments around the class involving the classroom size, the light, the arrangment of chairs, the noise which affects T and Ss attraction.

The classroom environments affects the way teachers teach and learners learn. The teacher in his lesson plan is dominated by the physical environment.

drturner | Student

I would like to recommend any of the book by Eric Jensen about brain based teaching. They have extensive chapters on room layout, color, temperature, use of windows ( to help or distract), doors (students facing doors etc.) The other recommendation would be to take a course called Time to Teach or get the book. It covers physical enviroment and room layout in an excellent fashion and has loads of good ideas for things such as presentation technique, classroom management. I have used it for the past 6 years and found all of it very helpful.

One aside is take the time to read your students and know when an idea is not working and change it up or maybe it is time to change subjects!!! If you have only a little experience reading an audience talk to comedians working in your area or well know lecturers and they can give you great insights. Magicians are also a good audience reading reference.

mczad | Student

Wow this post brings me back to my undergrad courses!  I have to agree with most of the others who have posted  and say that the physical environment is the way the classroom is set up.  The physical environment must be in a way that allows each and every student the opportunity to learn.  Being a teacher of only a few years, I have to say this is one big task to take on.  The best resource I could give you would be a book called Spaces and Places by Debbie Diller.  She is a veteran teacher who is super organized, and this book teaches you how to get the most out of your classroom.

writetime | Student

Physical environment of a classroom refers to how the classroom is laid out, the noise level in the room, brightness, temperature, humidity, etc.  You only have control over some of this.

I've been in classrooms as a substitute teacher with poor physical environments.  Air conditioners/heaters were humming, lights were buzzing, water was running through the pipes from the bathroom next door.  All of these things provide additional challenges for students who are negatively affected by these outside stimuli.  Unfortunately, teachers often have little control over these things.

However, we often can enhance the lighting, adjust the temperature, add colorful stimulating displays and help control classroom volume created by our students.

The goal is to make the learning environment a motivating and fun place for children to learn. 

I've also been in classrooms where this seems to have been overdone in terms of color and decor to the point where it might be distracting to the learner.

Safety of the students is key at all times, and visibility is a priority in order for the teacher to be able to monitor the students.  Creating learning centers or stations can be a great tool, however, some teachers have placed furniture and bookshelves in places that restrict their ability to see the students.

Following is a link from Scholastic.com that provides a good article on physical environment in the classroom and offers tips on what to provide for students to enhance learning.

spark73 | Student

The physical environment of the classroom is the overall appearance of everything inside the classroom.  The physical environment involves the arrangement of seats, the lighting overhead or softer side lighting, the temperature in the room, the organization of materials found within the classroom, and is the general setting.  The physical environment is essential for the student to learn safely,both mentally and physically.  If the envorinment is too distracting, loud, quiet, messy, or bright the some students may not reach their truest potential as a learner.  It is important to know the students and adjust the physical environment as needed to ensure to maximize the  learning.

tiffinyjackson | Student

As others have posted classroom environment does have to do with the physical environment and as in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, safety is critical. Safety can lead us to think about not only about physical safety but also emotional safety. The way that a teacher conveys her beliefs about children through talk is also critical. Students must be safe enough to take risks and learn from mistakes. One great resource is the book Choice Words by Peter Johnston.

Another aspect has to do with materials management or how a room is arranged so that students can access the materials they need easily and with a level of independence. Also, is the space maximized for student use and access to the teacher or is it a space dominated by the teacher desk and teacher space vs. student space?

Another aspect of room environment has to do with resources such as charting and student work portfolios. is it apparent that student voices and work are recorded and celebrated in the classroom? Is there a record of the learning?

Essentially classroom environment is defined by the physical and emotional ton within the room to support learning at all times. it is absolutely critical since without an appropriate environment student learning is hampered.

getumamun | Student

i want to know the answer of this question- what is the definiton and importance of physical environment.