Effective education is one of the most important social issues because educated youth is an engine that drives humanity forward. Unfortunately, for a long time, the organization of the educational process was considered an exclusively pedagogical problem, and the psychological peculiarities of the students were rarely taken into account. The main purpose of education was simply to convey information from teacher to students, which resulted in its remoteness from reality. However, nowadays, pedagogy is increasingly collaborating with psychological disciplines in order to better explore the nuances of the students’ psychology. One such discipline is the Environmental Psychology, which reveals an entirely new dimension of the educational process.
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Environmental Psychology is a field that studies the psychological aspects of the interaction between people and their environment. The term “environment” is widely interpreted and includes both natural objects and embodied social formations, such as material constructions, educational and working conditions, and sources of information. Environmental Psychology is based on the idea that the environment influences human behavior and attitude in different circumstances, and that in the long run it inevitably shapes their personality. Since human environment includes other people as well, the interaction between individuals in different social situations is also a subject of interest in this field.
One of the crucial issues of the Environmental Psychology is the organization of an educational environment. Since education performs a personality-forming role, the atmosphere of an educational institution should inspire curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking in students. In order to use the physical environment to enhance the educational process, the following ideas of Environmental Psychology are considered: 1) symbolism, which consists in the sociocultural meaning of objects; 2) territoriality, which is, occupying a peculiar space; 3) nonverbal communication through facial expressions, gestures, and body movements; 4) individual and cultural peculiarities in the perception of one’s environment. In order to create an effective educational atmosphere, all these factors should be taken into account while organizing the educational process.
The quality of education also depends on the manner of the interaction between teacher and students. The traditional approach to education, which mainly consists in the one-way transfer of dry facts and ready-made truths, has proven to be ineffective. As Freire claims, the task of the traditional teacher is “to fill the students with the contents of his narration — contents which are detached from reality” (71). However, even though nowadays there are many innovative methods of education, the traditional approach still prevails. The environment of “desks and blackboards” does not require much effort and there is “no demand that the teacher should become intimately acquainted with the conditions of the local community, physical, historical, economic, occupational etc., in order to utilize them as educational resources” (Dewey 40). Naturally, such an indifferent attitude of teachers mostly results in a similar position of their students.
Quite often, contemporary educational institutions neglect the need to organize the teaching process according to the innovative methods. In particular, this concerns the design of educational institutions, which in most cases still corresponds to the traditional approach to education. Dimly lit audiences, strict rows of desks, ascetic and outdated decor are among the most obvious examples that are associated with a typical university or college. The whole atmosphere of an educational institution points to the monotony and obsoleteness, and even modern gadgets rarely help, as they are more likely to be a means of distraction during a boring lecture rather than a source of additional information. The autocratic attitude of teachers makes the situation even worse by restricting students’ critical thinking and preventing productive discussion.
One more problem of the contemporary educational institutions is that they frequently deprive the teaching process of the necessary connection with reality. Firstly, students have no opportunity to interact with each other as they do in real life, that is, by critically thinking and solving problems through constructive dialogue. Secondly, a lack of object lessons and practical experience makes contemporary education of little use for a future worker. Thirdly, educational institutions often ignore individual and cultural peculiarities of their students, which results in their indifference and dissatisfaction. All this turns an educational institution into an isolated system rather than a place where a young person learns how to live in the real world.
Environmental Psychology reveals many new aspects that affect the quality of the educational process. According to this perspective, the educational environment includes both material objects and the ways that teachers interact with their students.
The design of an educational institution has an important symbolic and psychological role, as it influences the students’ perception of the learning process. Unfortunately, most contemporary educational institutions are still suited for the traditional teaching methods, neglecting the individual and cultural peculiarities of their students. Even though nowadays there are many innovative methods of organizing the educational process, in most cases, it is still teacher-centered, outdated, and detached from the real world. That is why the introduction of the principles of Environmental Psychology is crucial for the transformation of educational institutions according to the latest trends.
Dewey, John. Experience and Education. Simon and Schuster, 2007.
Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed: 50th Anniversary Edition. Bloomsbury Publishing USA, 2018.