The effects of spatial definition on preschool prosocial interaction
Zimmons, Jennifer Kathryn
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Nationwide, the number of preschool facilities and the number of children attending the facilities have grown dramatically over the past thirty years. This trend has prompted researchers to explore the role of the built preschool environment in early childhood education and examine its influence on young children's behaviors. An area of considerable interest has been how the preschool built environment can serve as an agent in young children's social development. The focus of this research study is to determine how three varying degrees of spatial definition (non-defined, moderately defined, well-defined) affect children's social behaviors in the classroom. Assessments were made using the Early Childhood Physical Environment Observation Schedules and Rating Scales (Moore, 1994), a set of instruments especially suited to evaluate children's physical environments. Children's behaviors were assessed through Observational Sampling of Classroom Behaviors, an instrument designed to assess young children's social behaviors (Ladd & Price, 1987). A multivariate analysis of variance examined the subjects observed behaviors in response to the varying furnishing arrangements. Subjects included a class of two- and three-year-old preschoolers at Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas. The types and amount of social interactions that occurred were observed at each treatment level. Contrast analysis, an auxiliary statistical procedure, found significant differences between areas within the classroom spatially designed to support prosocial interaction (cooperative play, social conversation) as compared to areas within the classroom not designed to support prosocial interactions. Results indicate that when furnishings in the classroom environment create more spatial definition, children respond with more cooperative play and social conversation in spatially defined areas.