This undergraduate interior design capstone investigates how elementary school classrooms located in the United States can be designed to improve student learning outcomes. The goal of this research is to answer the question: how can K-5 learning environments be designed to improve student’s academic performance? Preliminary research led to a hypothesis of learning environments can be designed to improve student’s academic performance by applying flexible design strategies that meet student’s individual preferences while also accommodating pedagogical variations.
To answer this question, the literature review consists of a detailed analysis of existing scholarly research investigating which elements of the built environment contribute to or inhibit student learning. The conclusion of this literature review led to an understanding of which factors of the interior classroom environment most affect student’s ability to learn. These factors include the following six variables: classroom layout, student furniture options, lighting conditions and controls, acoustic conditions and controls, color, and technology integration.
The research agenda studies the perspective of educators as to which design components of classrooms contribute to or hinder student learning. The method of research utilizes four types of instruments to collect quantitative and qualitative data: a survey, site visit, personal interview, and case study analysis.
The survey was released to superintendents of elementary schools located in Rochester, New York. A site visit and personal interview were conducted of a first-grade teacher. A case study analysis investigates an inventive elementary school located in Malmö, Sweden. Research findings are consistent with and support conclusions from the literature view. An analysis of the collected data informs the ideation, direction, and solutions present in the creative agenda design.
The creative agenda proposes a design approach through the application of research collected from the literature review and research agenda: two prototypical elementary school classrooms and interstitial spaces designed using an evidence-based design solution to improve student’s academic performance by increasing student engagement. The first classroom prioritizes the needs to younger elementary school students from kindergarten to second grade, while the second classroom prioritizes the needs of older students from third to fifth grade. Floor plans, reflected ceiling and lighting plans, diagrams, renderings, and FF&E selections illustrate the proposed design solutions to create a more supportive student learning environment for elementary school students.
Interior Design (BFA)
Department, Program, or Center
School of Design (CAD)
Buckingham, Stephanie, "Idealized Learning Environments: An Investigation of K-5 Classroom Design to Improve Student Academic Performance" (2023). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
RIT – Main Campus