With regard to questionnaires within the study, three questions were asked of the teachers. The questions were as follows:
Q1 Does the way you teach or the subject matter you teach require any special physical needs within the classroom?
Q2 What do you think about the classroom environment? Do you think the layout and organization of the classroom interferes with the way you teach and if so, how?
Q3 What would you change about your classroom to achieve a more effective teaching/ learning environment?
In the following section a number of the most interesting answers have been chosen to illustrate the range of responses. The restrictive size of classrooms was a recurrent issue commented on by 11 of the teachers questioned. A shortage of teaching space was a concern as well as the lack of storage space and provision of specific resource areas such as ICT. The following response illustrates this:
TIS: 0 3. The classroom is not big enough to accommodate all the different [teaching] areas needed, and storage is very limited. The shared area is not utilized to its maximum capacity to avoid disturbing the other class. Carpet area is too small for the whole class, and the display boards are badly placed. A larger carpet area and computers that work would be better. Bookshelves, pupil drawers, and teacher storage are required. We would like a more open environment to enable easier movement.
There was a strong response in the sample relating to the ability to alter the layout of the classroom environment. In most cases this concern was due to the size of the classrooms, as indicated by the following response:
TIS: C05. Lots of things are needed but the classroom is too small to fit them in. It would be better if we did not have tables on the carpet area, but at present we take groups of children to the library. The limited space means having to pack away some curriculum activities to accommodate others. There is a lack of space and the classroom is too cold in winter, too warm in summer. Blinds on the windows are inadequate. The adjoining walls to the next classroom are thin and therefore acoustics are very bad. An area for two or three computers, and space for children to sit around them comfortably would be ideal. We could also create better learning areas within the classroom, i. e. specific areas for art, however the restrictive size of the classroom makes this impractical.
The acoustic quality of most classrooms was rated as poor, for reasons including noise from other spaces such as halls, other classrooms and dining rooms, and external noise sources such as roads, as indicated by the following responses:
TIS: C01. The floor space near my desk is used a lot by the whole class and the sink and art area in the opposite corner of the room is another important resource for art and science activities, but this may have to reduce in size if the class gets bigger. The classroom is large enough, but there are only 19 children in the class. More children will make it more crowded. In the winter there is inadequate heating and there is insufficient ventilation in summer; the blinds are inadequate on sunny days. Sometimes noise from the hall and the playground can be disruptive to the pupils, especially when they are setting up dinner tables and clearing away afterwards. I would like to develop learning areas within the classroom, like the art area and reading and literacy corner, where children could work independently, and an area for plants.
Classroom lighting was only mentioned in 4 responses, all negatively. Responses related mainly to the inability to control natural illumination and the quality of natural illumination, either there being too much or too little. The responses highlighted that a common problem in classrooms was the inability to control or adjust lighting levels as exhibited by the following response:
TIS: C02. The shared workspace is used a lot by the classroom assistants who are working there with numeracy and literacy booster groups all the time. The classroom has many physical constraints, in particular the poor lighting (you have to have the lights on all year round due to the limited number of windows); not enough plug sockets, and too little space to rearrange the furniture. There is a lack of space and not enough power points to integrate technology properly within the classroom. More storage is required and I would like a cupboard to put teacher’s resources securely away from children.
Issues relating to temperature and ventilation were only mentioned in 3 responses (TIS: C04, C05 and C08), which were all negative as the following example illustrates:
TIS: C04. Yes an area or floor area so that the children could be seated as a class. But the classroom is too small to accommodate this and our quiet room is too small. Resourcing all the classrooms would be difficult and some resources may be better grouped in other locations in the school. A balance needs to be met between specialist spaces and classroom activities. It is important to have a variety of spaces within a school that complement the classrooms. I think we definitely need a separate ICT area. This classroom also has very poor ventilation, the new double glazed windows cannot be opened fully and it can get very hot in summer.
When analysing the information gathered from questions 06, 07 and 08, many of the teachers identified specific features within the classroom, including floor space, carpet areas and quiet rooms, as well as art and messy areas and book corners or literacy areas, as illustrated by the following responses.
A number of teachers gave detailed responses about what they could change or develop to create a more effective teaching/learning environment. This not only related to specifics within the classroom, but also issues relating to the wider school environment as illustrated by the following responses:
TIS: 0 4. The classroom is one of the biggest I have ever worked in and generally I am satisfied with it as a teaching environment. But I would like to develop various areas of the classroom with displays and resources that the children can interact with. There is one problem with noise and it is not from the children but from the rain on the roof, this is very noisy.
TIS: 0 5. I have too many resources and not enough storage space (or teaching space). This is difficult for hands-on activities and science experiments. I think that some activities cannot be supported properly in the classroom and it would be better to have other [dedicated] spaces for drama, ICT and arts and crafts. We need as many practical areas as possible, without losing any classroom space. We need more shelves/cupboards, art storage areas.
When comparing the responses of the Classroom Survey Questionnaire and the Teacher Interview Sheet responses, the most common concerns related to the restrictive size of the classrooms and the ability to alter the organization and layout of the classroom, which were perceived to hinder the delivery of National Curriculum activities. Acoustics, lighting and temperature and ventilation problems were also referred to on both.