The Effects of Spatial Layouts on Students' Interactions in Middle Schools: Multiple Case Analysis

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Title: The Effects of Spatial Layouts on Students' Interactions in Middle Schools: Multiple Case Analysis
Author: Pasalar, Celen
Advisors: Candy Beal, Committee Member
Frank J. Smith, Committee Member
Henry Sanoff, Committee Chair
Robin Moore, Committee Member
Abstract: This research aims to indicate how small school environments are spatially organized and how spatial relationships influence students' behavior and interactions. Four school buildings with differing spatial layouts were selected. Selected cases were representative of both 'academic house' and 'finger plan' type school buildings. This study analyzes schools as a spatial organization; as a social organization; and as a set of interactive interfaces for social and educational activities. The 'space syntax' technique was used to develop the spatial data, which provided information on the spatial layout attributes. The integrated and segregated areas of each school building were characterized by the syntactic variables. Behavioral mapping technique was used to identify students' activity and movement patterns with respect to the syntactic attributes of spatial layouts. Both findings from the analysis of students' behavior and the spatial layouts were related to students' perceptions about the social organization of their school communities and the role of the spatial characteristics. Overall analysis provides evidence suggesting that spatial layout and distribution of educational facilities in school buildings modulate patterns of use, movement, and the potentials for interactions. School building layouts, with higher accessibility, shorter and direct walking distances, and highly visible public spaces, generated higher rates of incidental interactions among students. The space occupancy rate in highly accessible areas was also correlated with students? movement and interaction rates. Students' ability to get to know others in the same grade through interactions was higher in academic house type school buildings. However, the rate to know students from different grade levels was higher in finger plan type schools, which offered better visual and physical access among the public areas. Overall findings indicated that single-story school buildings were the more advantageous for fostering social interactions among students. This study provides the impetus to further reconsider and develop innovative educational facilities and their spatial planning. The study concludes that spatial layout of school buildings is an important constituent of both formal and incidental interactions among students.
Date: 2004-04-08
Degree: PhD
Discipline: Design

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