What a cool classroom! Voices of 5-year-olds on the design of physical learning environments

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Although early childhood physical learning environments are designed and organized almost entirely by adults, it is the children whose learning is affected. This exploratory study examined voices of 198 Israeli preschoolers regarding their physical learning environments (96 girls, middle socio-economic-status, mean-age 65.15 months, SD = 4.5; Israeli preschool settings encompass children aged 3–5). The study investigated preschoolers’ perceptions and preferences regarding the design and affordance of their physical learning environment and their ability to express and rationalize these preferences based on interviews conducted using the Photograph-Interview with Children (PIC) instrument, incorporating children's photography of their own preschools and examining photographs of other preschools. The findings from the interviews were analyzed using multilevel modeling analyses testing the effect of gender, non-verbal intelligence, and receptive language. Findings indicated that preschoolers have preferences regarding their physical learning environment and can verbally express, explain, and rationalize their opinions. The study mainly revealed gender-related differences in the participants' preferences: While girls significantly preferred the Home Themed Role-Play Center, boys expressed a significant preference for the Construction Center. Moreover, participants perceived their classroom design as contributing to social interaction more than to well-being and knowledge. Girls perceived their classroom design as contributing to knowledge and a sense of well-being significantly more than boys. The data analysis revealed those learning centers in which the children demonstrated a lack of interest—the Display Boards and the Science and Nature Center. These findings underscore the importance of preschoolers' voices and of the PIC instrument when designing learning environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)370-385
Number of pages16
JournalEarly Childhood Research Quarterly
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2023

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  • Children's voice
  • Early childhood
  • Gender
  • Learning environment design
  • Physical learning environment
  • Preschool


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