Intelligence-Friendly Environments: a Study of New Zealand Primary School Classroom Design in Relation to Multiple Intelligences Theory
Education of young children has been the focus of academic research for many years. However, the impact of educational settings on the effectiveness of classroom instruction and learning progress is largely unconsidered. Multiple intelligence theory (MI) postulates that different types of intelligence affect our ability to learn and that educational programs should be accommodated to each learning style. The present study takes this approach a step further, by proposing that MI elements could be incorporated into classroom design, thus enabling students with different preferences to learn more effectively. Therefore the aim of this study is to investigate the effectiveness of New Zealand existing primary classroom settings in relation to the theory of multiple intelligences. This includes proposing possible improvements to the interior design of classrooms with the aim of enhancing children’s learning potential. The thesis includes a case study of four classrooms conducted through: (a) interviewing the classroom users −four teachers and twenty students aged 9-11; (b) observing the daily use of existing classroom settings; and (c) surveying the design of the existing classrooms. The key findings of the study are that most users have a very positive view of their traditional classroom settings but that at present MI theory is not strongly supported by the settings observed in the four classrooms. Classrooms mainly support linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences, whilst other intelligences are treated as secondary or complementary activities. However, MI settings - proposed by the researcher- are often already present in the classrooms or are suggested and/ or recommended by at least one user. The key conclusions of this study are that: (1) case study classrooms settings support mainly traditional views of intelligence and teaching; (2) applying MI theory to classroom designs could lead to more efficiency in learning environments; and (3) New Zealand schools could benefit from applying the different MI settings. Thus the study identifies the need to further evaluate cultural implications of MI theory in New Zealand culture. In addition, further studies need to integrate space saving furniture into single classrooms, allowing for more effective MI settings.