A comparison of students' and teachers' performances in an open area facility and in self-contained classrooms
Purpose The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of an open area facility, as compared with self-contained classroans, upon the performance of students and teachers in an elementary school. Design of Study The study was designed from a systems model that was used to identify the components and processes within the study. The design consisted of five phases: Input, process, output, objectives, and evaluation. Input Controlled variables. The study was designed to achieve equality between experimental and control groups with regard to all input factors except that of facility, so far as possible. In order to obtain equivalent samples in grades two, three, and four, students in each grade were separated into male and female groups, classified as younger or older, and randomly assigned to sections in the open area facility or to self-contained classroans. It was impossible to achieve complete equality of teachers, but three factors, (1) interest and motivation, (2) experience, and (3) quality rating, were all taken into consideration. The remaining dependent factors of materials, regulations, curriculum, expectations and demands, teachers' aides, and special teachers were equally controlled with both groups receiving identical treatment. Variable factor - facility. The experimental study was conducted at the Westwood Elementary School in Friendswood, Texas. A new open area facility was added to the existing plant. The original facility had been constructed with self-contained classroans and had been in use for only one and a half school years. Both areas were completely carpeted, air conditioned and equipped with modern new furniture and instructional materials. The facilities were different in style but both were basically equal in quality and comfort. This one factor, the difference between the two facilities, was considered as being the influencing factor that could account for the occurring changes in the performances of the teachers and students. Process and Output Both the experimental (open area) and control (self-contained classrooms) groups operated within the same philosophy and regulations regarding instruction and classroan management. The organizational arrangement provided a single administration that supervised both groups. The effects of the facility upon the performance of teachers and students were determined in the process stage and evaluated as output. Objectives and Evaluation Procedures The following five objectives were established and for each objective that was identified, instruments were designed or selected for the purpose of evaluation. 1. Objective number one was to maximize student achievement in traditional basic skills and content. Standardized achievement tests were used for ccmparing the two groups. 2. Objective number two was to improve the teaching-learning procedures by involving the students in the learning activities. Flanders Verbal Interaction Analysis System was used for comparing the teaching approaches of the two groups. 3. Objective number three was to improve the teaching-learning procedures by varying the sizes of instructional groups in order to adapt the content and methods to fit the needs of students. A record was kept of the amounts of time students spent in small, medium, or large size instructional groups and the percentages of time were used for comparing the control and experimental groups. 4. Objective number four was to improve the teaching-learning procedures by spending more time in the use of supplementary instructional materials and comparisons were made of the student time between the two groups. 5. Objective number five was to improve the teaching-learning procedures by having an organizational climate that was perceived by the teachers as being open. Halpin's Organizational Climate Description Questionnaire was used to compare the perceptions of the climate of the two groups of teachers. Hypotheses The following hypotheses were posed and tested: 1. There will be a significant difference between the standardized achievement test scores of the children in the open area when conpared with the standardized achievement test scores of children in self-contained classroans, 2. There will be a significant difference in the nature of teacher-student interaction in the open area and that in self-contained classrooms when the proportions of direct and indirect interaction for the two groups are conpared. 3. There will be a significant difference in the amounts of time students spend in varying sizes of instructional groups when the open area grouping arrangements are conpared with the grouping arrangements in self-contained classrooms. 4. There will be a significant difference in the extent of use of various supplemental materials with students in the open area as conpared with students in self-contained classrooms. 5. There will be a significant difference in the organizational climate as perceived by teachers in the open area and the organizational climate as perceived by the teachers in the self-contained classrooms. Findings Two of the five hypotheses were accepted and three were rejected. When the achievement scores for the students in the open area and the students in self-contained classrooms were compared, differences were not statistically significant. When the teacher-student verbal interaction in the open area was compared with that in self-contained classrooms, there were no significant differences. The organizational climate perceived by teachers in the open area did not differ from that perceived by teachers in self-contained classrooms. When the grouping arrangements of students in the open area were compaired with the grouping arrangements of students in self-contained classrooms, there were significant differences. Similarly, when the amount of time supplementary materials were used with students in the open area was conpared with the amount of time supplementary materials were used in self-contained classrooms, there were significant differences. While there were no significant differences in standardized achievement test scores, teacher-pupil verbal interaction, and perceptions of the organizational climate, the open area teachers did tend to use more supplementary instructional materials and also varied the sizes of the instructional groups more than did the teachers in self-contained classrooms. Conclusions and Recommendations It was concluded that one type of facility was not superior to the other. Teacher and pupil performance were equal and similar when academic achievement, teacher-pupil verbal interaction, and the teachers' perceptions of the organizational climate were conpared. It was evident that the open area facility can accarmodate the same type of program as successfully as can the self-contained classroom facility. One very apparent advantage of the open area was the flexibility of the facility. Teachers took advantage of the space and spent significantly greater periods of time with small and large instructional groups, while the teachers in self-contained classrooms tended to spend a greater proportion of their time with medium size instructional groups. The teachers in the open area also tended to use more supplementary instructional materials than did the teachers in self-contained classrooms. This may have been due to the various grouping arrangements that were taking place in the open area. It may be that materials were selected for the purpose of meeting the needs within the various size groups. It was recommended to the officials of the Friendswood Independent School District that the next school building be an open area facility. However, it was felt that certain separate special areas needed to be included in the plans. Special rooms are needed for sound movies or tape recordings. Also, a large enclosed area for art or special activities would be desireable. There is also a need to consider several exits, so that students who need to leave the area can do so without much distraction to others.