THE ROLE PLAYED BY CLASSROOM DESIGN ON LEARNING ENVIRONMENT
The idea that we learn by interacting with our environment is probably the first to occur to us when we think about the nature of learning. When an infant plays, waves his arms, or looks about, he has no explicit teacher, but he does have a direct sensorimotor connection to his environment.
Exercising this connection produces a wealth of information about cause and effect or the consequences of actions, and about what to do in order to achieve goals. Throughout our lives, such interactions are undoubtedly a major source of knowledge about our environment and ourselves.
Whether we are learning to drive a car or to hold a conversation, we are actually aware of how our environment responds to what we do, and we seek to influence what happens through our behaviours.
An individual acquires (learns) information and knowledge through the environmental stimuli he perceives. According to Darwin (1882) cited in Eyo (2003), “Learning enables members of a specie to adapt to a wide range of life challenges.
Many forms of animal and human adaptation follow the principles of learning. Burns (1995) defined learning as a relatively permanent change in behaviour including both observable activities and internal process such as thinking, attitude and emotions.
In the same vein, Gagne (1985) in conceptualization defines learning as a change in human disposition or capacity which persists over a period of time and which is not simply ascribed to the process of growth.
Learning is often defined very simply as a change in behaviour due to experience (Chance, 1994). Similarly, learning among humans sometimes means giving up something. For instance John would like to quit smoking Okon wants to stop biting his nail; Ngozi would like to be less nervous when meeting people, Udo and Ekaette would like to quarrel less when they go out together. All of these changes in behaviour, if they occur, are examples of learning.
There is a different between what an organism can do and what he does, between learning a response and performing it as a result of this, some psychologists for example, Brown (1996) have argued that learning means a change in the potential for behaviour. It has been found that student learn in a variety of ways. For example, memorization hands on peer or individual learning, problem inquiry or work sheet based, student or teacher centered. The different ways in which students learns is partially related to the type of learning environment available. These learning environments may also affect the student’s ability and motivation to learn.
It is well known by educators that student learn in various ways and have their own individual styles and strategies. Some may enjoy group work others individual work. Some may prefer teacher instruction with worksheets and firm directions, rather than self generated research projects. There are numerous ways student learn, but how does the environment affect student’s learning ability and influence the learning strategies they employ? This means that certain stimuli enhance learning or affect it negatively.
Learning is often thought to be a process of the mind, much of what actually occur during the learning process is predicted by features of the learning environment. The success or failures of any learning task may likely depend on certain environmental factors.
Classroom design refers to the physical arrangement of the classroom, a classroom should be attractive, well lighted, comfortable and colourful. The physical aspects such as temperature, noise that affect our ability to concentrate and maintain attention can also influence classroom design.
Similarly how the internal features of a classroom (desks, chairs, tables) are arranged is also important. Although teachers have no control of the size of their classrooms, they can control the seating arrangement within the classroom. The seating arrangement should accommodate the learning activity. For example, inside the classroom there should be ample space to make all students to see instructional presentations and allow the teacher to be close to all students. Researchers have found that when the environmental conditions are appropriate for learning, the likelihood of disruptive behaviour is minimized.
If a classroom is designed attractively, effectively and for maximum logistical use the classroom itself can become an effective teaching and learning tool. The right classroom will encourage particular teaching theories, promote a variety of learning styles and help to manage behavioural problems. Moreover, a mentally stimulating and challenging classroom can motivate a student’s learning, encourage achievement and effort.
Classroom design includes buildings, infrastructures, seating arrangement, light intensity and so forth. According to Brown and Camprone (1996) classroom design affects the behaviour and the development of students. Hence, the classroom design that influence learning are vast and quite a lot of these factors such as inadequate infrastructures, seating arrangement, light intensity and so forth affect learning. However, the focus of this research is to find out if classroom design affects learning in the sense of conducive and non-conducive environment when using poster of classes of fruit and vegetables to educate student. Educators have found that the use of thematic posters, wall decorations and Bulletin boards can give the classroom a common thread when studying a particular theme. It may help to immerse the students in their studies of the topic and provides them with useful references that they can look at and obtain information from.
Posters highlighting what to do, are things which are good at reminding students of what their next task may be and helping them become more independent. Finally, positive affirmation posters help to create a positive, harmonious, cooperative learning environment between students and teachers. This particular posters may also assist in encouraging and building students’ self-esteem and confidence in themselves and their learning.
Another variable of interest in this study is reinforcement. Reinforcement theory was developed by the behaviourist school of psychology, notably by B. F. Skinners (1904 – 1990). Skinner believes that behaviour is a function of its consequences. This implies that a learner will tend to repeat the learning behaviour if positive reinforcement (pleasant consequences) follow the behaviour. Thorndike (1874-1949) and B.F. Skinner (1904-1990) in their conditioning experiment using cats and rats respectively found that they were frequently reinforced and avoided those that were punished.
Positive reinforcement may includes a piece of candy, sweet, praise or other more tangible rewards like a certificate at the end of a program. Reinforcement also strengths behaviour. This occurs when the behaviour results in the removal or termination of something unpleasant. Punishment on the other hand weakens behaviour. This is because a negative condition is introduced or experienced and teaches individual not to repeat the behaviour.
This research also concentrated on verbal reinforcement. Verbal reinforcement involves the use of some verbal approval to encourage or strengthen desirable behaviour. Some verbal approval includes “good”, “mm-hmmm”, ‘yes’, and so on. One of the first pieces of experimental support for the existence of the verbal reinforcement was reported by Greenspoon (1955) who differentially, reinforced singular and plural words. Participants were instructed to say words as they came to mind. While they were responding, the experimented murmured “mm-hmmm’ after all plural words for one group and all singular words for other groups. A third group that did not receive this form of verbal reinforcement served as the control group, Greenspoon formed evidence of verbal conditioning in the group reinforced. For plural but not in the group reinforced for singular words.
Studies on reinforcement showed that some students were not reinforced (Geurin 1995). The study of learning and factors that affect it, is very important to psychology and mankind in general. Such studies bring to limelight the importance of learning and factors that influence it on its own.
STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Research findings on the role played by classroom design on learning remained inconclusive. It is evident that some students have studied in non-conducive environment and yet they performed well, while some have been reinforcement yet performed poorly. Therefore, the researcher in this study sought answer to the following questions through objective analysis:
- Do participants who receive reinforcement perform more in learning task than participants that receive no reinforcement?
- Do participants in a conducive environment perform better in learning task than participants in non-conducive environment?
PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
This study is specifically aimed at establishing whether classroom design can affect learning and whether reinforcement too can affect learning.
OPERATIONAL DEFINITION OF TERMS
This sub-section deals with the definition of terms adopted for this particular study.
Classroom Design: This refers to classroom made of participants in a conducive and participants in non-conducive classroom.
Conducive Classroom: This refers to an environment that promotes learning such as good desk and chairs, posters, light and so on.
Non-Conducive Classroom: Refers to an environment that adversely affects learning such as noise level, inadequate chairs and unlit classroom and so on.
Reinforcement: This refers to verbal stimuli such as “that is good”, “good” ‘yes’ and so on.
Learning: This refers to the ability to understand and recall what has been taught in both conducive and non-conducive classroom.