Progressive School Design

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Progressive School Design
Neira, Pedro S
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[Gainesville, Fla.]
University of Florida
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1 online resource (50 p.)

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Master's ( M.Arch.)
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University of Florida
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Architectural design ( jstor )
Classrooms ( jstor )
Cognitive psychology ( jstor )
Distractibility ( jstor )
Learning ( jstor )
Mental stimulation ( jstor )
Schools ( jstor )
Social interaction ( jstor )
Students ( jstor )
Working memory ( jstor )
Architecture -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
cognition -- design -- distractibility -- school
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born-digital ( sobekcm )
Architecture thesis, M.Arch.


The transformation of education and learning has created a long existing need for spaces that accommodate the most pressing issues regarding its performance. In current times there are a few realms that drive the design process and provide designers with insight in how to create the desired spaces; however there are still unexplored areas of study that could benefit the architectural realm in its quest for more efficient designs. Educational facilities deal with special populations and have very specific performance expectations. Since the learning process is fundamentally a cognitive process, it is simply logical that understanding of human cognition can provide certain overlooked insight for creating spaces that facilitate learning. Architecture should engage in a dialogue with the field of cognitive psychology, the synergy of fields has the potential of bearing very innovative strategies and new solutions. This research proposes an observational study, seeking to identify the distractibility index, its relationship to social interaction and its repercussions on scholastic achievement. Schools that accommodate for the reduction of distractibility should, in theory, become high performance schools. ( en )
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In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
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Includes vita.
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Thesis (M.Arch.)--University of Florida, 2014.
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by Pedro S Neira.

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University of Florida
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Copyright Neira, Pedro S. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.
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LD1780 2014 ( lcc )


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2 2014 Pedro S. Neira


3 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS There are many people that made this possible and to whom I would like to thank. First and foremost I want to thank God who through his unfailing love and mercy shown in Christ has given me a purpose and vision which I seek to follow, not simply through my research, but through my professional practice and all future endeavors. I want to also thank my parents who have shown me the meaning of sacrifice and hard work and who have imparted wisdom upon my life through words and example. My little sister and best friend, who inspires me to never give up by being an example of character and integrity which I can only hope to acquire. This researc h could not have been done without the help of Dr. Therriault. His willingness to lend his expertise to someone outside of his field, his impartial feedback and disposition of knowledge allowed me to find a common ground between the areas of my academic st udies and my interest in human cognition. In the same manner I want to thank Dr. Hayes for allowing me to come into her school, PK Yonge, to make observations and perform my research. I believe in the synergy of architecture and psychology, and I would lik e to thank professor Walters and professor Hailey for advising me and allowing me t o explore a realm that very few look into.


4 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 3 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 6 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTI ON ................................ ................................ ................................ .................... 8 2 CURRENT TRENDS OF SCHOOL DESIGN ................................ ................................ ...... 12 3 .... 16 4 HOW WE THINK ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 20 Spatial Significance ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 23 School Setting ................................ ................................ ................................ ......................... 24 5 P.K. YONGE DEVELOPMENTAL RESEARCH SCHOOL ................................ ............... 28 Visual Reading of the Space ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 29 Acoustical Design ................................ ................................ ................................ ................... 31 6 OTHER CONSIDERATIONS IN LIGHT OF DISTRACTIBILITY ................................ .... 35 7 CONCLUSION ................................ ................................ ................................ ....................... 36 APPENDIX A PK YONGE DECONSTRUCTION OF THE HALLWAY ................................ ................... 38 B PK YONGE SPATIAL DESIGNATION ................................ ................................ ............... 39 C PK YONGE TRANSPARENCY ................................ ................................ ........................... 40 D PK YONGE ACOUSTIC FOCI ................................ ................................ ............................. 41 E PK YONGE DIAGRAMATIC RENDERING ................................ ................................ ....... 42 F PROPOSED STUDY ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 43 Methodology ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................... 43 Significance ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................ 44 Limitations ................................ ................................ ................................ .............................. 44 Expected Outcome ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 44


5 G DATA COLLECTION SHEET ................................ ................................ .............................. 45 REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ................................ .............................. 46 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 50


6 Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of M aster of Arch itecture PROGRESSIVE SCHOOL DESIGN A COGNITIVE APPROACH TO ARCHITECTURAL FEATURES By Pedro S. Neira May 2014 Chair: Bradley Walters Cochair: Charles Hailey Major: Architecture The transformation of education and learning caused by the introduction of new teaching techniques and technological advances has created a need for spaces that accommodate pressing performative concerns There are a number of ways in which the disciplines of architecture and design have addressed these emergent performative issues, typically by responding to specific spatial requirements that emerge through evaluations of student performance over time. Spatial requirements including availability and quality of light, air, thermal comfort, and good indoor air quality are some of the many issues addressed through specific and directed studies that have been conducted by others There remain, however, still un der explored methods of study that could transform the architectural design process to better address the design of educa tional facilities Rather than responding to a series of discreet and isolated spatial concerns through a series of isolated spatial responses it is possible to approach the design of educational spaces in a more comprehensive manner. By beginning the des ign process with a n understanding of human cognition in its most fundamental manner, for instance, it is possible to develop new strategies


7 for creating spaces that better facilitate cognitive learning processes By engaging in a dialogue with the field of cognitive psychology, the architectural design process may shift to yield innovative strategies and new solutions.


8 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Education has been transformed throughout the centuries, yet it still maintains its essential structure and character. The fundament al educational process involves a transfer of information, ideas, and/or skill between a master and an apprentice. The master someone with specific knowledge skills, and/or a high level of expertise in a given sub ject area. apprentice someone with less expertise who is interested in acquiring greater knowledge and/or skills The specific methods through which this educational process has occurred however, have changed dramatically over time and c ontinue to evolve as time progresses forward. The earliest recorded instances of educational processes involved simple oral exchanges of information from person to person, or from an individual to a group. By 3500 BC, these oral traditions were augmented by drawings, paintings, and diagrams that further elaborated upon oral information, allowing it to become much more precise in its content and more completely transferred from one individual to another. The emergence of language and the written w ord accredited to the Sumerian culture during their occupancy of the Mesopotamian region from 3500 BC to 2000 BC, (Postgate, 1994), allowed for the educational process to change dramatically, allowing master and apprentice to be physically separated withou t necessarily interrupting the exchange of information from one to the other. With the advent of the printing press during the industrial revolution, we see a concurrent industrialization of education, where information is distilled and codified for mass d istribution and dissemination. It is during this time teacher As knowledge was recorded and/or exchanged through printed words, the one to one relationship between master and appr entice was replaced by an imbalanced teacher/student ratio. To the extent that information was known,


9 quantifiable, and able to be recorded in written media, this served as an appropriate method for the simple exchange of information. Over the last two hundred years, however, th e educational process has changed dramatically. Education is no longer seen as a simple transfer of information from one person to another. Contemporary ideas about education involve complex social networks and extend outside of a single task or skill to i nvolve the development of a whole person. The concept of delimited and/or encyclopedic knowledge that is transferred through time has been completely replaced by ideas of critical thinking and inquiry that privilege invention, innovation, and discovery. Th e philosophical ideas on education of Benjamin brought the understanding of education from a simple transference of information to a teaching model that evoked higher level of critical thinking from the students (Krathwohl, 20 02), and in the same way the ideas proposed by John Dewey illustrate education as a social and interactive (Vygotsky, 1978). As the processes of education have changed and shifted over time the places where education occurs has changed as well. Under the earliest apprenticeship system s the place of learning was often the place where the task itself was to be performed. In fact ever since very early times in history, t he idea of congregation of students or learners has been present. Plato Academy in ancient Greece is a great example of such, as is the founding of the primary education system in the Byzantine Empire in 425 AD (Bentley, 2003). For the most part, the idea of a place of learning was driven by religious beliefs and culture. The Greeks would gather in the Acropolis to discuss upcoming trends of thought and philosophy ( Acts 17:16 34 New Loving Translation) the Hebrews gathered in th e synagogues to


10 be taught the Torah, and the Muslims came together to the Mosque to be taught the Koran by the prophet (Munir, 1987). Just by taking a closer look at the Islamic development in education, we can see how the idea of school space started to b e born as a separate entity from the strictly religious congregation space (mosque). In 1005 AD the Fatimid Caliphs in Egypt established the first Madrassa. A Madrassa was a higher education building (the equivalent of a college of current times), and alth ough its purpose was still religious oriented, it shows the notion of a space specifically designed for learning purposes. This particular Madrassa contained teachers, materials (such as ink and paper) and a library with around 6500 volumes on different to pics of study (including philosophy architecture and astronomy), according to an inventory performed in 1045 AD (Munir, 1987). As the need for spaces constructed specifically with the purpose of teaching and learning became evident, meeting the needs for the space to function effectively also became pivotal in the design process. Although it is hard to assess when the idea of school emerged in history, some instances can be dated back to the 6 th century AD. In Europe, educational institutions were monas tic schools ; places in which monks and nuns taught. These schools were religiously affiliated in the same way that synagogues and mosques are. Monastic schools were the precursors of medieval universities, which emerged in Europe during the 12 th and 13 th centuries. These universities focused mainly on the study of arts, medicine, law and theology (Rich, 1978). In the United States, the first recor d of a school was after the formation of the 13 original colonies. The first school, under the name of Boston Latin School, was founded in 1638 in


11 Dedham, Massachusetts Since most of the colonists were British, they followed the traditional British methods of education, which were rooted in family, church and apprenticeship. It was not until the mid 19 th century that schools starting to take responsibility for the educational tasks that were or iginally handled by the parents (Cremin, 1970). Higher education institution were established by religious denominations in order to train ministers, colleges like Harvard, Yale and Princeton were originally created for this purpose (Cremin, 1970) After the revolution schools became widely available. By 1870 all states had free elementary schools. A few decades later, American education went into the progressive era, which showed a dramatic increase on schools and students served, and was led by new perspectives on education rooted on philosophies of interaction and experience based on Dewey


12 CHAPTER 2 CURRENT TRENDS OF SCHOOL DESIGN Every school designer has to take into account the obvious. Issues like storage, safety, occupant capacity and specialized spaces (such as laboratories, auditoriums and cafeterias) each bring in features that are common in all educational facilities. In fact it is fair ly easy to identify a school just by being in it. In more current times, however, some other issues have been brought to the table that have started to add pathways of logic when thinking about designing an educational facility, which not only deal with th e obvious and traditional but also take the design a bit further. Because a vast amount of money spent by governments around the world is in education (a great portion of which is spent on the facilities), different groups and programs are established to make the most out of the investment. In the UK, for example, the Building Schools for the ( Leiringer & Cardellino, 2011 ). As these organizations research in depth how to make school s more efficient, they have arrived at the understanding of a changing educational approach. Little by little educators have drifted away from traditional ways of teaching and h ave adopted newer techniques that involve the use of available technology for illustrative and experiential purposes. Due to these changes in the educational realm, designers have started to take into consideration shifting educational curriculum in the ir approach by creating more flexible spaces that can easily accommodate for these types of shifts in the teaching methods ( Leiringer & Cardellino, 2011 ). Spatial flexibility becomes then a design driver for high performance schoo l and as such starts to inform the methodology of construction, inclusion of


13 newer technological capabilities and efficient materials that allow for these approach to take place. A high performance school can be defined as a learning facility that takes into account several factors in order to achieve a measurably better learning environment. The need for schools like these was documented in Reform he early 1980s, which showed a drastic decline in test scores and showed a high percentage of high school graduates falling into the realm of illiteracy ( National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983) Currently there are a few organizations that c ertify high perform ance schools and districts that meet certain minimum requirements The most nationally recognized of these is the Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS ). Their goal is to help change in our educational goal through changing the design, construction and operation of schools (, 2014 ). operations, and commission ing of high performance schools. These schools are defined facilities that improve the learning environment while saving energy, resources, Best Practices Manual, pp. i ) The benefits of high performance schools include: 1) hi gher student test scores, 2) reduced operating costs, 3) increased average daily attendance, 4) enhanced teacher performance and satisfaction, 5) reduced environmental impact, 6) increased building life, and 7) reduced liability (Best Practices Manual, pp. 1). Even though the main focus of organizations like these is the sustainability aspect of design, many of the schools that meet the criteria for membership also take into account the cognitive aspect of their performance. One example is Chartwell School in Seaside, California.


14 assess the best learning conditions for students in their curriculum. The American Institute of Architects ( AIA ) performed a case study on th is particular school because of its sustainable features and innovative design, but its status as a high performing school is more than just its green school status (Kwok, Jessup & Rajkovich, 2009). This school in particular is integrating cognitive issues into its curriculum in order to best assess the needs of it students. The issue of sustainability has been gaining strength in recent years since the impact our society is having on the environment is increasingly becoming more evident. Now is not simply about meeting the needs of the people with a building, but also meeting the needs of the planet to e Putting a heavier emphasis in ecological manners means and increase in eco friendly constructions. T he development of regulating or monitoring systems makes this a reality; in fact only in the United States one can see the increase in number of buildings that follow some sort of environmental criteria. It is no wonder the prominence of certain constructi on materials and methods start to take prominence in buildings and can be clearly identified, even in school settings. Some features like solar panels and high efficiency glassing are becoming mor e common features of educational facilities The glassing ma kes the envelopes of the schools more translucent and emphasizes the usage of natural light. T he importance of natural light is not simply because of its reduction on the need for artificial lighting and electricity consumption, but also because of its imp act on performance. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (the only federal laboratory dedicated to the research and development of renewable energy usage and efficiency) asserts that natural lighting


15 not only increases energy savings, but also yields b etter test scores (Adler, 2009) Likely reason why most schools considered high performance have this feature in common. Green rating systems such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design ( LEED ) one of the most prominent ones currently, try to address the broad range of issues affecting the long term sustainability of a building or constructed environment. They seek to address issues that have a global connotation like energy and water consumpt ion, while also addressing small scale issues that deal with more immediate ecosystem s, including local material consumption, local economies, native ecosystems, etc. When addressing the small scale most rating systems take into consideration features tha t relate more specifically to the building in question, in this case an educational facility. The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) for example, has a created a specific rating category for BD+C: Schools ). This rating system has specific criteria in the area of indoor environmental quality that is important for educational facilities ( LEED 2009 for Schools New Construction and Major Renovations rating system, pp. 59 82 )


16 CHAPTER 3 INDOOR ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY AND Two main themes can be identified within the indoor environmental quality (IEQ) section of LEED, the first one deals with everything that has to do with air quality (health and thermal comfort), the second deals with lighting (mostly comfort and controllability). It is important to note that the rating systems designed specifically for schools (LEED BD+C: Schools) also takes into account acoustical performance of the space accord ing to its designation. It is no surprise that air quality has been taken into consideration when addressing the well being Breathing is one the fundamental processes of any living organism and tampering with it has the potential of impairing a pretty crucial. And although it seems like a rather obvious and pivotal point to address, it did not become considered until fairly recently. Several decades ago, it became evident that people were getting sick for seemingly no nonexistent sickness was due to unhealthy air conditions. As medicine developed and our understanding of microorganisms became deeper, it became clear th at unbalanced levels of bacteria and certain kinds of fungi suspended in the air were causing different kinds of illness among the people breathing the air in which they were present. Not to mention inadequate levels of oxygen in proportion to other gasses present in the air. Later on this phenomenon came to be known as Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) (Redlich, Sparer & Cullen, 1997). This led to the development of ventilation techniques, insulation methods and drainage considerations to eliminate the growth o f injurious fungi such as mold and mildew (Fung, Hughson. 2003). Even ways to detect inadequate levels of harmful gasses in the air (such as Carbon Monoxide, Carbon Dioxide and Ammonia) have been introduced as part of the design


17 process since it is evident the importance of keeping the air safe to satisfy the well being of the people making use of the enclosed space. The advances in mechanical ventilation and refrigeration systems have allowed us to have a larger control over the quality of indoor air. A g ood example is the standard American school setting. For the most parts, elementary and middle schools are kept at temperatures under 68 degrees Fahrenheit. The reason for this low temperature is to prevent the rapid spread of air born decease caused by co mmon viruses like the cold. The lower the temperature, the harder it is for the virus to reproduce, thus it is less likely for children to contract a cold from being in an enclosed space for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Indoor air quality is truly a pivot well being and even more so in the western culture. The average person in the developed world spends about 90% of his or her time indoors (Humphries, 2012). Whether is in school, at work, at home, for the average person this wi ll equate to more than twenty one (21) hours indoor each day If people are going to spend so much time breathing indoor air, it should be healthful. The second theme of the IEQ section of LEED deals more with comfort and control over the building, focusin g mainly in lighting (Abbaszadeh, Zagreus and Huizenga, 2006). It is safe to well being rather than the physical health. Psychology became a science relatively recently in compari son to medicine and biology and so much research being performed as well as empirical findings about the human brain and its functioning has not yet made its way into other fields (Gifford, 2007). There are very few examples in which it is visible a distin guishable relationship between cognitive psychology and construction, much less architectural design.


18 One of these few examples can be noted in Nordic climates in which architecture aims to satisfy the psychological needs of the population. Throughout the se regions, the incidence of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is rather prevalent and affects a large portion of the population. This Mood disorder receives its name due to the effect of long winters with limited solar exposure on emotional state (Abas & Murphy, 1987). is dependent on the season of the year (winter). When dealing with psychological issues there is always more than just one way to resolve or treat them. In the case of Mood Disorders, a clinical approach would prescribe specific medicament in order to bring balance to the brain chemistry and allow emotions to operate within the normal range. However, since SAD is field dependent on the external environment and has no physiological cause (that we know of), it is more reasonable to find solutions that tackle the root of the problem and not simply the symptoms. After much research on the matter, it was discovered that light therapy was just as effective, if not more effective, at dealing with this specific di sorder as prescribed medicine (Dunham, 1992). And even more importantly, has neither side effects nor risk of dependency and addiction. This particular discovery made its way into the architectural realm very evidently, most of the Nordic architecture is focused on natural light and illumination since it has been recognized what the impact of such spaces have on the human psyche of the inhabitant. In a way, well being School design addresses the well being of it occupants in many ways, this whole section of the LEED criteria ensures that some baselines are met and that the spaces provide a healthy


19 environment. However the particular purpose of this kind of facilities raises an important issue that perhaps has been overlooked. The well being of the students also implies their performance as learners. The learning process is fundamentally a psychological process; therefore psychological health needs to be addressed more in depth just like Seasonal Af fective Disorder ( SAD ) has been addressed in Nordic regions where extensive research on the disorder has led to the development of light therapy and its applicability to build environments through the usage of natural light In order to do that, the de signer must ensure the space accommodates essential cognitive processes required for effective learning.


20 CHAPTER 4 HOW WE THINK There are many questions still unanswered regarding the human brain and the thinking process, however there are certain things that we have been able to learn about cognition. Cognitive performance is well predicted by working memory capacity. In fact, working memory is a much better predictor of fluid intelligence than the standard IQ testing procedures (Fry & Haile, 1996). Alth absorb, retain and utilize information is a rather concrete definition of what intelligence is (or at least what we can observe about it). Scholastic achievement (performance in a school setting) is fully dependent in cognitive performance; therefore it is safe to say that it can be highly predicted by proper Working Memory functioning (Daneman and Carpenter, 1980). As it has been exposed by several studies in the past, working memo ry functions in direct relationship with attention (Engle, 2002). In block out the distracting stimuli/retrieval, and his working memory capacity). There are still many aspects we do not understand when it comes to work ing memory, however there are a few things in which most experts seem to be in agreement. Working memory is composed by two According to Baddeley, the two slave sy stems are composed by the visuospatial sketch pad (where visual informa tion is stored) and the phonological loop (where sound data is stored The executive function is a higher cognitive function, which requires consciousness; it has control over the slave systems and is in ch arge of processing the combined information


21 (Baddeley 1992). In other words, the executive function is what allows the individual to make sense of the information provided perceptually, create semantic relationships with information already stored in the b rain and encode the information for storage and future retrieval. It is also considered by most experts that the capacity of working memory is limited. Miller proposed the limitation of working memory (also known as Short Term Memory) by showing how subje cts could remember seven plus or minus two digits or units, providing a range of 5 to 9 chunks (Miller, 1956). One might argue that the capacity is or items but rather by the conceptual channels in which working memory is enacting since the definition for chunk comes down to the simplest form a concept may take avoiding specificity and keeping a general qualit y (simple things like numbers, colors and general objects) ; in this case the limit might be higher if the items fall within the same conceptual realm. Regardless of which assumption we take, it is understood that working memory has a limit and has to work within it. Baddley suggests in his model of working memory the independence of the two slave systems. He exposes the visuospatial sketchpad and phonological loop as limited capacity entities that process different types of stimuli aided by the executive f unction. Being independent channels of information, they have different limitations; therefore it is possible to provide the same fundamental stimuli in different presentation (audibly or visually) and cause different levels of cognitive load ( Baddley, 199 2). Cognitive Load Theory (CLT) can be traced back to the work of Miller in the 1950s; however it was not until the late 1980s that John Sweller, based on the work of Miller and others after him, proposed CLT (Sweller, 1988). Essentially, the theory states that any kind of


22 information processing that the working memory undergoes causes a certain amount of load; the random access memory ( RAM ) If the tasks in question present a load larger than working memory capacity allows, then the task will not be done successfully. information processing would cause different amounts of load. Sweller separated cognitive load in to three ty pes; intrinsic (immutable quality of innate to the stimuli, like the innate difficulty of a differential equation vs. the innate difficulty of a multiplication problem), extraneous (load generated by the way in which the stimuli is presented), and germane (load generated by the individual). Given that we cannot change the intrinsic load of any stimuli, we can only change or reduce the extraneous and germane loads, ideally aiming to reduce the extraneous in order to maximize resources for the germane. In ot her words, manipulating the way any material is presented can reduce the cognitive load of such material. Several studies have been performed in the development of teaching materials facilitating multimedia learning. In 2003, a group of German psychologist s published a study entitled Direct Measurement of Cognitive Load in Multimedia Learning, in which they proposed a measuring methodology for cognitive load in relation to multimedia learning This study provides some empirical data for theories based on CLT (Brnken, Plass & Leutner, 2003). In their literature model as the basis for understanding the relationship between visual and audible stimuli (given that multimedia learni ng utilizes the integration of both means of presentation).


23 Since the executive function of working memory works in direct relationship with with, is reduced by the distractors present since those distracting agents generate cognitive load If the amount of distractors increases, more of the attention has to be utilized to block them. In this case attention becomes the space working memory has available, therefo re more attention devoted to block distractors equates to less attention available. Little space available makes for a cluttered desk or slower computer (Roedinger, 1980). Spatial Significance We have identified two main limitations that working memory has : attention and capacity both implying the utilization of existing resources. In order to facilitate working memory to function more efficiently, we then have to accommodate for this limitations. It is important to recall that attentional resources are a fixed feature over which we have no control cannot provide more attentional resources to his repertoire. Therefore the only option of manipulation available is p hysical space. of the physical world allows him or her to understand and behave in an adequate manner. In order to make sense of presented stimuli, the individual will create a mental simulation based on previously stored data (Glenberg, 1997). The mental model is not limited to visual and auditory data; it is directly linked to physical manipulation of the environment (Zwaan and Taylor, 2006). The more expertise t he individual has, the more details the mental model will possess thus becoming more useful in understanding a presented stimuli (Zwaan, 1999). When the stimuli presented is contrary or conflicting with the mental model generated, processing is affected, unless the presented stimuli can be integrated with the mental model (Kaschak, Madden,


24 Therriault, Yaxley, Aveyard, Blancherd, Zwaan, 2005). Since the physical environment has a direct link with cognitive processes, it is reasonable to hypothesize that by manipulating the space around the individual, one can accommodate for working memory to function more efficiently. Architects manipulate space in order to evoke emotion, create experiences and direct occupation (Barsky & Nash, 2002). Throughout their deve lopment as professionals they are directed to think of their designs not only in terms of financial feasibility and global sustainable matters, but also in terms of occupants and their well being Interestingly enough, the well being of the occupant emphas is has been driven by physical health since most changes in construction methods have been implemented due to sickness caused by inhabiting a building (Redlich, Sparer & Cullen, 1997).Some issues have been addressed, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), unde rstanding the importance of sunlight in cognitive functions (Kent, McClure, Crosson, Wadley, & Sathiakumar, 2009), and the introduction of natural light through glazing systems as part of indoor comfort are good examples of such. And although natural light has become a design driver (Geebelen & Neuckermans, 2001), there is much room for further investigation and synergy among the fields, especially when dealing with special populations. School Setting As previously stated, working memory and fluid intellig ence are directly related, and even more so, these can determine scholastic achievement Working under the premise that two identifiable limitations of working memory are capacity and attention, one can start to think of ways in which the physical space in the classroom setting can accommodate for these, thus facilitating better performance. For the sake of this investigation, we will focus on attention since although a fixed feature, it s availability is field dependent, while working memory capacity is a fixed feature


25 independent from the physical environment, allowing some individuals to have a high capacity working memory a nd others a low capacity working memory (Conway, Cowan & Bunting 2001). One way to allow for effectively utilizing attention is to reduce the proactive inte rference provided by the space (Kane & Engle, 2000) t his proactive interference is provided by any distracting agents in the environment around the individual. One of the most common kinds of distractors within the classroom setting is identified as social interaction. In the traditional setting, the space is designed to focus attention on one person ( the instructor) and isolate the individual student from his/her peers in order to reduce distractibility. The issue with the traditional model lies in the innate human need to interact with others like him. People are social beings and are programed to soc ialize. In a way, placing a child in a room full of other children and instruct him not to interact with them is along the same lines of placing conflicting stimuli with a specific mental model. The simulation points in one direction while the instruction point in the opposite one. During the mid 1980s a teaching trend surfaced under the name of collaborative learning (Johnson & Johnson, 1986), and it has made its way to current teaching techniques. The idea behind this trend is simply the collaboration of kids in performing a task, in more mundane terminology, group projects. Many aspects are considered beneficial when using this approach ; it has been shown to encourage intelligent social interaction, time management and leadership There may be deeper re asons however, behind why this method has been proven successful. The fundament of collaborative learning (also referred to as cooperative learning) can be traced back to the work of Vygotsky and his insistence of a social nature to learning. Lev


26 Vygotsky (Russian psychologist of the early 1900s, best known for his work in developmental psychology) proposed the Zone of Proximal Development concept, in which he defined the realms in which a child could perform tasks by himself, perform task with some help ( collaboration) and not perform at all (Vygotsky, 1978). The concept of collaboration in the classroom setting gained some opposition based on Social Darwinism, which states that students must be equipped to survive in a competitive realm, thus individuali to make its way into the teaching trends and even today is still gaining weight because of its results. In the early 1980s, Robert E. Slavin performed a review of 28 field experiments that aimed to study the effectiveness of cooperative learning techniques in the classroom. The results of all of studies show unquestionable positive effects in group cohesiveness (concern for other students and race relations) and positive results for academic achievement, with more variables in question, which infers the integration of individual work with collaborative techniques (Slavin 1980). Theoretically speaking, if we were to utilize social interaction in a way that it becomes concurrent with the task for which we expect the student s to focus their attention, the distractibility index should reduce. The distractibility index simply refers to the amount of attention devoted to non target behavior or tasks. In this scenario we are placing the social interaction (conversations mainly) within the same conceptual realm as the task they are expected to attend. By doing this we could expect to reduce the amount of attention devoted to blocking distractors since th attention utilized for blocking is reduced, then the available attention for processing purposes is


27 increased, thus cognitive performance is improved. This can be easily attained by enco uraging conversations on the topic of study and allowing the students to discuss and arrive to conclusions on it.


28 CHAPTER 5 P K YONGE DEVELOPMENTAL RESEARCH SCHOOL The University of Florida is affiliated with an experimental kindergarten through twelfth grade school located in Gainesville, Florida Established in 1934, P K Yonge Developmental Research School follows a progressive curriculum that aims to integrate the utilization of technology, modern teaching trends and spatial sustainability. The lower division section of the school, which contains grades kindergarten through fifth grade underwent a complete remodeling in year 2011. Throughout this process, a different trend of thinking about the educational spac es was introduced which has placed this school among a group of alternative sch ool settings that follow Randall Fielding and Prakash Nair s ideas. In 2005 Prakash and Nair Published a book titled The Language of School Design, which proposed a new way o f spatial configuration based on alternative ways of thinking. Through this language they propose new character for educational spaces that highlights other aspects of school design that were not considered before. One of the most prominent ideas of their proposal, very present in the remodeling of PK Yonge is the concept of learning communities. A learning community is an integration of the students that belong to a similar age group and have similar scholastic goals. In a way, the learning community trie s to diminish the differentiation of students by classrooms and encourage the creation of an academic culture of learning. By creating a community, the students gain a sense of ownership and partnership, out of a sudden they are not learning for themselves only, but are also helping each other succeed. (Prakash & Fielding, 2008)


29 It is important to note that the ideas proposed by Fielding and Prakash ha ve no empirical evidence behind them in fact they explicitly state that their writing is not empirical. This poses a grave problem since great amounts of money are invested in ideas like these without the certainty that they will bear any kind of results. Nevertheless many of the concepts e xposed by these authors are worth exploration and experimentation because it is evident that thinking about school settings in a traditional mindset is not an option anymore. The road ahead is open to take concepts, such as learning communities, and see wh ether they work, how they work and why do they work, based on data we have available. The learning community concept is very relevant to this research since it addresses in a very direct form the issue of social interaction and its r ole in reducing distrac tibility; and as a result, increasing scholastic achievement, thus creating a very efficient school setting cognitively speaking. In order for a learning community to perform as it is intended, it requires certain architectural considerations Visual Rea ding of the Space By avoiding the explicit separation of spaces one seeks to encourage the interaction of the than just a transitory space, and more of a transfor mational space in which learning takes place. The hallway then undergoes a deconstructive process in which it reading becomes occupation oriented, rather than transitory oriented ( A ppendix A) A transitory space encompasses a space to not dwell on, but rat her just go from one point to another. In a way is simply a support space necessary for the adequate performance of the main spaces. It allows for the occupants to access and make use of the noble areas. Once we start


30 to think of the support space as the m ain one, its configuration changes in character (Appendix B) As one enters the area, the hallway is no longer a straight passage of circulation, it is organic in nature and its width varies as one walks along it. The surfaces defining the space do not fol low a straight edge but rather a series of parallel planes that define different widths and spatial pockets. As one starts to navigate the space, it begins to reveal these pockets in which one can dwell without ever having to leave the main space. The furn iture varies and is placed in specific locations to imply a type of occupation, but it is part of the space and one transits through it. The surfaces that define the space are not fully solid, they reinforce the concept of continuity by allowing the penet ration of light and air (A ppendix C) Natural light is brought in form the edges and the visual continuity of the space is uninterrupted. For this to happen the idea of transparency is pivotal. Because of transparency, the occupant can visually be connecte d to the rest of the space and read it as one instead of a series of smaller sections. Everyone occupies the space; everyone owns the space and everything in it. By creating this notion of a constant occupation, the students start to take ownership of the space and its use. When allowed, they find an adequate area to develop the task required of them and identify other who are in the same situation. The connectivity among occupants is strengthened by the notion of occupying the same space. What was formerl y a hallway has now become a congregational space that encourages connectivity through transparency. Psychologically speaking, by identifying a space as a congregational one, the occupants will naturally seek social interaction, which in this case, is aime d to aid in the scholastic achievement


31 of the students. To feasibly allow this phenomenon to happen, the space has to be flexible enough that the occupants may utilize it differently at a given point in time. To aid in the flexibility of space, besides o f thinking of a traditional transitory space as a noble educational one, the furniture plays a big role. Drifting away from simply having desks inside and introducing multipurpose sitting furniture, breaks away the perception of a rigid educational facilit y and introduces a sense of lounge space. The implication of how one reads the space reflect the attitude in which one approaches it, lounge is naturally more comfortable than classroom (A ppendix E) At the end there are some smaller classrooms for specif ic purposes but the main learning takes place in the main space, the classrooms become supporting spaces rather than protagonist in the architectural hierarchy. Acoustical Design In order to create a space that facilitates a learning community, there cannot be explicit separations that segregate the group in subgroups in a distinct and perceivable manner (like classrooms and closed spaces). However, the space also has to allow for multiple conversations to happen simultaneously without entering the aco ustic pollution realm. A good way to tackle this issue is through acoustic isolation ; in other words, constraining the sound energy to a limited area within the space. Through this method, one can subdivide the space without breaking it explicitly, thus the space reads as a continuous entity that flows organically and yet stays away from an d overbearing presence of hyperactivity. The acoustical design performed by Siebein Associates Inc. was able to create such acoustically isolated environment. Why are we then trying to isolate the space audibly and not visually? Is a continuous space not a s distracting and polluted visually as is a noisy room acoustically?


32 The key to understanding this premise lies on understanding the different processes that the two senses undergo. We know that both channels, the visuospatial sketchpad and phonological lo op, work together but are independent of each other. Based on physiological differences in sensory processing we can also conclude that their dependency on cognitive l cone and range, bifocal focus and conscious power over the lids shows great amount of ability to narrow down the amount of visual information taken by the visual channel into the executive function. (outer ear structure) or any physical aspect of his auditory system (with the exception of head rotation) shows little ability to narrow down the information taken by the auditory channel, thus implying a greater involvement of the cognitive system throug h engaging in a process known as selective attention. Through this process, the working memory of the individual utilizes attentional resources in order to block out the unwanted information and only process the targeted one, thus listening and comprehendi ng. As the amount of unwanted stimuli rises, so does the demand on attentional resources; fewer resources, imply less attention to process, retain and retrieve information, therefore learning is impaired. In this regard, acoustics play a larger role in red ucing distractibility caused by the environment. In 2011 Klingner, Tversky and Hanrahan, from Stanford University, published a study on psychophysiology; which sought to explore the effects of verbal and visual presentation of information on cognitive loa d. For the first time they were taking a closer look on the load imposed by the different channels and its evidence based on human physiology. They measured pupil dilatation and recorded the magnitudes and time upon presentation of stimuli. Pupil dilatatio n has been a method of study in cognitive processes for several decades due to its


33 reliability to produce consistent results. This method was designed by Kahneman in 1973 to provide empirical evidence for his attention theory of effort (Kahneman, 1973); Be atty visual ones; these results provided evidence for higher cognitive lo ads caused by audible stimuli (Klingner, Tversky &Hanahan, 2011). The most direct way in which acoustic isolation can be achieved is by reducing the acoustic energy presented inside the space and limiting the range of reach of the remaining portion. In oth er words, we need to create a space that is rather dry By reducing the reverberation of the space, one can reduce the amount of energy active in the space in the form of sound. If the surfaces defining the areas absorb a vast majority of ac oustical energy, most of the sound available will be the direct sound generated, which would be eliminated as the distance from the source increases. The inclusion of carpeted floors, acoustical paneling and absorptive gypsum board, become the palette of a ssembly one can assume to be common in spaces that aim to create acoustic isolation. If designed carefully, the space will create a series of sound domes that only have access to specific acoustic foci. The space is then isolated allowing for multiple of t hese foci to be active simultaneously (A ppendix D) This allows for constant occupation of spaces with limited intrusion or interruption from nearby spaces Another consideration is the early reflection loss. Because the surfaces are not very reflective, t he sound reflected directly from the source to the target is significantly reduced, thus reducing the acoustic support of the source. This means that the overall volume is reduced. In some instances it might not be desirable for the volume to be lower, sin ce places more burden on the source (teacher), however due to the reduction of reflected sound, the intelligib ility of the


34 sound is increased, since optimum speech communications happens between the ranges 0f 0.2 and 0.5 reverberation times (S ato & Bradley 2008). If the students are not to be far from the teacher giving instruction, this becomes a preferred scenario since the sound is rather clear which makes it easier for students to comprehend speech. Comprehension of speech is a pivotal feature in a lea rning environment, especially for younger individuals.


35 CHAPTER 6 OTHER CONSIDERATIONS IN LIGHT OF DISTRACTIBILITY Most of the evidence gathered in reference to working memory functioning points away from the idea of distracting agents as positive factors in task performance. Theoretically speaking, the reduction of the distractibility index leads to less proactive interference which implies that more attentional resources of the working memory repertoire can be utilized for the target task, thus increasin g efficiency and improving learning. It is important to note that certain levels of distraction might have a positive effect depending in the complexity of the task required. If the task at hand is categorized as a simple task then the distractor has the ability to facilitate the performance of the task However if the ability to perform the task (Sanders & Baron, 1975). Sanders and Baron were trying to make a impairing distractor. With exception of terminology, their concept aligns with the view of this research that social interaction can facilitate learning. However based on more recent working memory findings, it is fe asible to conclude that for that phenomenon to happen, the distractor has to become parallel to the target task s o that it causes little to no proactive interference. One can argue that distractors help to relieve stress and p ressure of any programed space; however considering that learning is a rather complex task, distractors not aligned with the target will impair successful performance.


36 CHAPTER 7 CONCLUSION Much can be achieved through the synergy of disciplines. In this case I make a case for a conversation between Cognitive Psychology and Architecture. Thinking about design under a different lens can provide more inventive solutions pushing the envelope, in this case a cognitive approach towards progressive school design This research simply aims to expose an example of how the logic of thinking about cognition can take the form of architectural design defining new ways of constructing of educational spaces. In this case the cognitive research focused on working memory as the main component in learning, and social interaction as the main distractor that renders learning more difficult for the students. Through the idea of converting the main distractor into a pedagogical tool, one can expect the learning process to becom e more efficient. With that in mind, creating educational spaces that support a format in which social interaction is encouraged and channeled, as a pedagogical tool, becomes the dialogue between architecture and cognition. PK Yonge whether the designers were mindful of that or not, portrays an excellent example of taking that concept into reality through architectural language. Features like creating a learning community through the deconstruction of the hallway and acoustic isolat ion to allow for simultaneous occupation create a type of space in which teachers can easily apply (and in this case, they do) the idea of social interaction as a facilitator for learning. The analysis of the school and concepts based on CLT lean toward th e notion of acoustical design as being the corner stone of success for spaces like these since there are several ways of creating a notion of a learning community, but any learning community requires careful ly thought acoustical isolation, and


37 aural stimul i generates a high cognitive load which increases the distractibility caused as a byproduct of the physical space accommodating for collaborative learning. as studio cultu re. In this culture the space is simultaneously occupied, everyone is part of the same community and constantly exchanging ideas about their personal work, thus enriching one learning experience and allowing for peer to peer learning to occur Th e next step is to test the hypothesis, which may involve conducting an observational study similar to the one outlined in appendix F. The goal of this further research would be to evaluate whether or not educational facilities designed in this manner do in deed perform better than traditional settings in reducing distractibility A secondary but related question would be to evaluate whether or not reduced distractibility yields better learning outcomes and/or knowledge retention. Once enough evidence is gath ered, we can have more faith in the direction in which school design is headed, a direction that considers the cognitive aspect of the occupants of the classroom and raises questions about the acoustic quality of the space More data makes for stronger dec isions and better synergy between the fields.












43 APPENDIX F PROPOSED STUDY This research proposes an observational study, seeking to identify the distractibility index, its relationship to social interaction and its repercussions on scholastic achievement. Methodology Audio Re corded Sessions. By recording 4 15 minutes sessions (twice a week for 4 and will be able to place them into types and categories: Category 1: Non distracting. This category includes all the conversation instances (social interaction) that do concur with the topic of study. Type 1 Teacher to all Students Type 2 Student to Teacher Type 3 Teacher to Individual Student Type 4 Student to Student (including s tudent to various students, peer to peer, etc.) Category 2: Distracting. This category includes all the conversations (social interaction) that do not concur with the topic of study. Type 1 Teacher to all Students Type 2 Student to Teacher Type 3 Teacher to Individual Student Type 4 Student to Student (including student to various students, peer to peer, etc.) Once the data has been recorded, a statistical analysis will be performed in order to establish the ratio from Distracting to Non Distrac ting spoken social interaction per day (according to Type) and create a representing mean for the full 4 weeks (Appendix F). In the same way a comparing ratio between Type 1 and Type 4 will be created based on the data (since those 2 types represent tradi tional and non traditional classroom settings.


44 Significance The study is to be replicated in a traditional school setting (like Meadowbrook Elementary School) in order to create a comparative group to cross reference the data and suggest future investigation. In order to suggest a correlation between the results and actual performance, anonymous class scores, in the areas of Mathematics and Science (Standardized Tests), from students belonging to each school (same grade) will be acquired and com pared. Limitations Some limitations include teaching methodologies, individual differences among students (which include socioeconomic status, psychological background, hearing or behavioral scholastic performance. Also, the samples taken are aimed to suggest a correlation, however in order to establish a significant correlation, further investigation is required. Expected Outcome This study seeks to measure whether social interaction (convers ations) can be used turned from being distractors to being facilitators, which would theoretically improve scholastic achievement. Distractibility equates to proactive interference in working memory tasks, which divides attention. Having control over ones attention reduces the effect of proactive interference and thus increases performance (Kane and Engle, 2000). But also, if the distractions decrease, less attention resources have to be used to block them, therefore working memory has more resources to wor k within its limited capacity. If the results concur with the hypothesis, then architectural features that support such environment should be considered and investigated in depth for the new generation of classroom settings.




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50 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Pedro S. Neira acquired his Master of Architecture deg ree from the University of Florida at the end of spring semester in 2014. His undergraduate work was also done at the University of Florida where he underwent through the entire design curriculum. Outside of the field of architectural design, he was expose d to a vast amount of studies available in the field of psychology, which sparked his interest in cognition and human development, and their relationship to architecture. Being born in Colombia and fluent in Spanish he also developed an interest in languages and dedicated some of his underg raduate studies to Germanic languages. Outside of his academic work, during his undergraduate studies he was actively involved with his fraternity Kappa Epsilon Phi where he developed leadership skills and acquir ed experience in counseling and mentorship. He was also heavily involved in chi through Greenh ouse Church, which allowed him to work in direct with contact with kids of various stages in the elementary school age group.