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Does school building design affect learning?

Everyone would agree that a university should make every effort to insure a student’s educational experience is as successful as possible. This can be accomplished by offering a solid curriculum and learning plan within each course offered. A capable staff of instructors who are top in their field should be provided. Students should have access to the latest in technology and high-quality resources.

But is there more to it than what a student learns, who teaches them the content, and the tools they will use to grasp and apply knowledge? The answer is yes. The physical environment in which a student learns is of great importance to the educational experience. Here are two ways a school building can affect a student’s academic performance.

Accessibility

While many consider this term to be associated with the physical accessibility and the struggles those with disabilities have endured through the years, it goes beyond just this issue. However, accessibility has not always been of the greatest importance to college campuses. The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed by Congress in 1990. This law “is the nation’s first comprehensive civil rights law addressing the needs of people with disabilities, prohibiting discrimination in employment, public services, public accommodations, and telecommunications.” Until this time, many public use buildings and college campuses lacked the infrastructure and building attributes needed to make their facilities accessible by patrons, employees, and students with disabilities. The ADA went a long way in having university leaders rethink how students use the campus and buildings therein.

Accessibility continues to be of the utmost importance on many levels on college campuses today. Students of all different abilities should be able to move freely within a building which offers needed amenities. The size of walkways, the furniture provided in hallways and courtyards, the lighting of a classroom, and the technology offered to students within a course are all part of what it means to provide a student access to a quality education.

Inspiration

The college years can be some of the most creative years an adult will experience. The opportunity to be exposed to great works of literature, important theories, high-level math and the like are just a few components which make these years so important. A university should not merely see its job as being to provide a student with a degree, it should see the years a student attends courses on its campus as an opportunity to shape a mind and inspire generations.

This lofty goal can be seen in a number of ways. Many universities offer cultural fairs and host musical acts, poetry readings, and political events throughout the calendar year. Some of the nation’s best colleges even make it a point to strive for inspiration in the design and architecture of their learning spaces. Many beautiful business schools exist throughout the country. These buildings feature award-winning architecture as part of their construction. Some have decorated their study spaces with modern furniture and dramatic pieces of art including bold paintings and sculptures commissioned by well-known artists. Some buildings feature nature spaces or large windows which look out over the region’s lake or forests. Details like these go a long way in showing there is a component of a student’s successful experience beyond mere grades.

Colleges and universities which strive to offer students the very best in education will do well to look beyond just the components of a seasoned staff and curriculum. There is much to be gained by prioritizing a student’s accessibility to a fine education in the classroom and the need for her to be inspired to achieve her best performance as an undergraduate.

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