Second Grade Students’ Perspectives of Their Classrooms’ Physical Learning Environment: A Multiple Case Study

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The study employed a qualitative multiple case study approach to investigate second-grade students’ perceptions of their classrooms’ physical learning environment. Data were collected through interviews, participant-generated photographs, and observations. Participants in the study were 16 students in four classrooms in three school districts. A physical learning environment tool, Assessing the Pillars of the Physical Environment for Academic Learning (APPEAL), developed by Evanshen and Faulk and published in 2019, was used to select classrooms to participate in the study. According to the scale, the top-scoring classrooms were more learner-centered (more constructivist) than the lowest-scoring (more traditional) classrooms. Generally, participants believed that classroom physical learning environments that were best for them were meaningful, offered easy access to resources and materials, and provided active learning and social engagement opportunities. Both physical and emotional comfort were important to participants. There were more similarities than differences between the participants’ perceptions in the classrooms that scored highest on the APPEAL and the classes that scored lowest. The findings suggested that young children’s perceptions of the environment can be influenced by their experiences or contexts and their differences. The results encourage teachers of young children to think about their students as actively affected by their environment and challenge them to design classroom physical learning environments that support the diverse needs of students within these spaces.