by Jim Determan, Mary Anne Akers, Isaac Williams, Christine Hohmann, and Catherine Martin-Dunlop
Recently, education researchers have emphasized the redesign of learning spaces to better accommodate pedagogical change. In particular, studies have found evidence of the relationship between the built environment and learning outcomes—however, no current studies have deliberately focused on the “minority majority” feature of America’s future student composition.
This pilot study was conducted to evaluate how space contributes to the learning outcomes of a demographically diverse class of students at Morgan State University, a Historically Black Institution. Based on the neurobiological literature on environmental enrichment, the authors hypothesized that an enriched learning environment will correlate with increased student activity (directed movement) and engagement (with other students, with room features) and result in significantly improved learning outcomes for an ethnically diverse student group.
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James Determan, FAIA, is a principal at Hord Coplan Macht, an architecture firm based in Baltimore, and has designed spaces that enhance learning for 30 years. He has presented work and spoken to national audiences and universities on trends in higher education learning spaces. He has a 20-year relationship with Morgan State University where he taught design studio, mentored master’s degree candidates, and served as an advisor.
Dr. Mary Anne Akers is the dean of the School of Architecture and Planning at Morgan State University, a historically black university in Baltimore. She is an urban researcher and planner who has practiced in the United States and the Philippines for 35 years while serving as an academic faculty member at various universities. She is strongly recognized for her work in interdisciplinary research and her service focusing on disadvantaged communities.
Isaac Williams is an instructor with Morgan State University and a principal with Fielding Nair International, where he directs the Baltimore studio and has led the design of projects on four continents. His academic and professional work focuses on the design of effective learning environments and has been published and presented nationally and internationally.
Dr. Christine Hohmann, professor of biology, Morgan State University is a highly published developmental neuroscientist who has spent most of her career as an experimentalist, studying developmental brain disorders in mouse models. She has been actively engaged in minority undergraduate research training for more than two decades, and this has become increasingly a research focus for her as well.
Dr. Catherine Martine-Dunlop is an associate professor of science education in the School of Education and Urban Studies at Morgan State University. She has been conducting learning environments research in the STEM field for 10 years. She particularly enjoys transdisciplinary collaborative projects.