The Impact of Physical Classroom Environment on Student Satisfaction and Student Evaluation of Teaching in the University Environment

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ABSTRACT

Recently, many colleges and universities have made significant investments in upgraded classrooms and learning centers, incorporating such factors as tiered seating, customized lighting packages, upgraded desk and seat quality, and individual computers. To date, few studies have examined the impact of classroom environment at post-secondary institutions. The purpose of this study is to analyze the impact of classroom environment factors on individual student satisfaction measures and on student evaluation of teaching in the university environment.

Two-hundred thirty-seven undergraduate business students were surveyed regarding their perceptions of classroom environment factors and their satisfaction with their classroom, instructor, and course. The results of the study indicate that students do perceive significant differences between standard and upgraded classrooms. Additionally, students express a preference for several aspects of upgraded classrooms, including tiered seating, lighting, and classroom noise control. Finally, students rate course enjoyment, classroom learning, and instructor organization higher in upgraded classrooms than in standard classrooms. The results of this study should benefit administrators who make capital and infrastructure decisions regarding college and university classroom improvements, faculty members who develop and rely upon student evaluations of teaching, and researchers who examine the factors impacting student satisfaction and learning.

INTRODUCTION

A 2008 technology survey of AAC SB -accredited business schools indicates that fifty percent of business schools plan to upgrade their facilities within the next five years, with an average estimated cost of $37,252,600 per school (TBS Roundtable 2008). These facility upgrades include renovation and/or addition to existing facilities and the construction of new facilities. Investments in upgraded classroom environments often incorporate features such as tiered (or stadium) seating, customized lighting packages, upgraded desks, and individual student computers (Conway 2000).

Researchers have examined several aspects of classroom learning environments and the impact of such environments at the K- 12 education level (Earthman 2002, Young et al 2003). These studies find that building conditions such as lighting, temperature, student comfort, and classroom technology are significantly positively related to student outcomes, including performance and attitude (Fisher 2001, Hurst 2005). However, there have been relatively few studies that have examined the impact of classroom environment at institutions of higher learning (Siegel 2003). As colleges and universities spend millions of dollars on facilities, it is important to analyze the impact of different environmental features to ensure that students, faculty, and institutions receive the greatest benefit from spending on learning environments. It is important to analyze the impact of upgraded learning environments at the college and university level, as many institutions and university systems are facing budgetary constraints that require enhanced cost and benefit evaluations. Further, additions and upgrades to existing facilities can create large disparities in classroom environments, often within the same building. These disparities may provide an unfair advantage to students enrolled in sections that happen to be in the upgraded classrooms. Finally, physical characteristics of rooms may affect student evaluation of teaching.

Extensive prior research exists on student satisfaction and the student evaluation of teaching in the university environment (Barth 2008, Merritt 2008). Prior research has shown significant relationships between student evaluation of teaching and factors such as instruction quality, course difficulty, and grades (Zabaleta 2007). Additionally, student satisfaction has been significantly linked with the values congruence between instructor and student and with the extent to which the overall course structure aligns with student expectations and preferences (Westerman et al 2002). …