A Case Study on Facility Design: The Impact of New High School Facilities in Virginia on Student Achievement and Staff Attitudes and Behaviors Open Access
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This case study involved the examination of three new high schools that opened in the Commonwealth of Virginia between 2006 and 2007. Principal interviews and focus group interviews were conducted between April and June 2008. Document analysis of architectural information was conducted by the researcher for each site location; that analysis yielded shared characteristics of the sites such as floor plans, common professional work areas, use of safety features, and the use of natural lighting throughout instructional and professional spaces.The study determined that the perceptions of the principals and the staff of these new buildings were shared and sufficiently common for identification. The data collected from both groups of participants indicated the existence of three shared themes particular to this case study: improved student behaviors, improved staff and student morale, and a lack of belief that the new buildings had more positively impacted student achievement than had the old buildings.Additionally, data collected from participants in this study seemed to represent acknowledgement of a relationship between sustainable design elements and student achievement as well as student and staff behaviors. All respondents in both interview groups agreed that the amount of natural light incorporated into the design of the building had a positive impact on both student and staff behaviors, indicating that it may have positively impacted student achievement.At all three locations, participants expressed a shared belief that natural light had affected their overall performance, their individual moods, and, in some cases, their ability to maintain their levels of performance as the year progressed. Other factors mentioned by all participants as having had a positive impact included the following: open space in classrooms and hallways, the high ceilings and sense of openness in all the buildings, and enhanced safety and security features present in the buildings. All of the data collected from the participants in this research study led to the conclusion of the researcher that design elements such as natural lighting and climate controlled HVAC systems, as well as wide, open hallways and shared student spaces, do positively impact student behaviors and student and staff attitudes and behaviors.