Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)


Early Childhood Education

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Dr. Pam Evanshen

Committee Members

Kim Hale, Amy Malkus


The specific goal of this study was to determine the use of the physical classroom environment as a teaching and learning tool in an era of the implementation of the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI). This qualitative multi-case study focused on the learning principles and epistemological beliefs of primary teachers with reference to the physical classroom environment and the teaching process in regard to meeting the expectations set forth by the CCSSI. The researcher sought participation from a city school district in Northeast Tennessee which included a total of 8 participating teachers consisting of 2 each of grades kindergarten, first, second, and third. The Teacher Beliefs Survey (Woolley, Benjamin, & Woolley, 2004) was administered to determine teachers’ philosophical position regarding constructivist and traditional beliefs. Based upon responses, 8 teachers representing the most constructivist and most traditional teachers in each grade were selected for further participation. Teachers’ practices and perceptions of the role of the physical environment in the teaching and learning process including consideration of the CCSSI were further explored through interview. Each physical classroom environment was evaluated using the Primary Educators Environment Rating Scale (PEERS), a rubric designed to assess the use of the physical classroom environment on a continuum from traditional to constructivist practices (Evanshen & Faulk, under review). Observational field notes and photographs were collected in order to document environmental components of the physical classroom environment of each participant. Data was collected and triangulated through the use of the aforementioned methods. Through the data analysis process, the researcher found all participants to demonstrate support for the role of the physical environment in the teaching and learning process which was determined based on results of the interview in conjunction with findings of the PEERS and supporting photographic evidence. Each teacher’s personal experiences and philosophy of education was found to guide the physical classroom environment design and layout in various ways. While most teachers felt the CCSSI had little or no impact on their physical classroom environment, all shared in varying degrees the use of the physical environment as a tool to support students in developing 21st century skills.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.