• The Coffee House Classroom: The Difference Between Student and Faculty Perceptions of Classroom Spatial Design in a Community College Environment

      Kent, Katherine
      With the ever increasing need for employees who are capable of problem solving, working in team-based projects, and engaging in professional discourse, it is questionable whether these activities are, or can be, supported and promoted in the typical community college classroom environment containing traditional rows of desks and computers with a professor front and center. These traditional classroom arrangements discourage participatory activities and engagements with peers and faculty due to the very nature of the inflexible and impersonal alignment of side-by-side, row seating. This study investigated the impact of the physical furnishings and the spatial arrangement of a classroom environment on its occupants‘ perceptions and behaviors. Traditional computer classroom settings were compared to a created coffee house style classroom containing a circular seating layout, a variety of seating options, and a mobile instructor‘s station to determine if the difference in furnishings and spatial configuration would produce differing perceptions of a similar academic experience. An examination of the elements of environmental psychology and design provided a background for this study and a foundation for determining the significance and influence of the physical setting in relationship to occupant behavior. This study utilized a quantitative survey instrument supplemented with a qualitative faculty interview and a classroom observation design to investigate the students‘ and faculty‘s perception of English Composition courses held in two different iv classroom settings. Three ENG111 classes were held solely in a traditional computer classroom, three ENG111 classes spent one-half of the class sessions in a traditional computer classroom, for labs, and one-half of the sessions in the coffee house style classroom for discussion and critique. The findings of this study suggests that those students in the classes held in the combination of settings incorporating both the traditional computer classroom and the coffee house classroom had a significantly higher incidence of satisfaction in two items of a seven-item instrument in the areas of Personalization, ×2(2, N = 60) = 3.31, p = 0.025, and Task, ×2(2, N = 60) = 3.01, p = 0.037, than those students who had classes meeting only in the traditional computer classroom. There was only a slightly significant student perception difference in the area of Cohesiveness, ×2(2, N = 60) = 2.36, p = 0.058, in favor of the courses held solely in the traditional computer classrooms. The faculty member teaching all six ENG111 courses reported a high degree of satisfaction with the coffee house classroom environment arrangement and results.