Steele's Six Functions of the Classroom Setting



Louise Glasgow 4/19/2015 Classroom Design 2 nd Grade

What are the Six Functions?

◦ In 1973 Steele defined physical settings to serve six basic functions. ◦ The six functions include security and shelter, social contact, symbolic identification, task instrumentality, pleasure, and growth. ◦ Classrooms are more efficient and likely to aid student leaning if all six functions are addressed.

◦ With that in mind, it’s useful to consider the six functions when setting up a classroom layout. Let’s take a closer look at each function…

1. Security and Shelter

◦ Security and shelter are the most fundamental function of a physical setting. As a precondition, this function must be met to some extent before the environment can serve any higher-level needs (Weinstein et al., pg. 27). ◦ Basic physical protection- deals with weather, uncomfortable temperatures, excessive noise, etc. ◦ Accommodations- for students with special needs such as room for mobility in wheelchairs, leg braces or crutches. ◦ Psychological- feeling that the room is safe an comfortable. Feelings of psychological safety can be physically and socially addressed.

Security and Shelter: Ms. Anderson’s 2


Grade Classroom

• • • • This second grade classroom addressed security and shelter in a handful of ways: The room is climate controlled year round. Students aren’t distracted by feeling uncomfortable (hot or cold).

There are no leaks, mold, or excessive dust in the building. The room has been arranged spaciously, preventing students from feeling cluttered. Although there are no students with physical disabilities in the class the aisles are wide enough to accommodate any specific and special needs (such as wheelchairs or walkers).

Psychological security is necessary in dealing with students coming from impoverished, unstable, or unsafe homes (Weinstein et al. pg. 28). • • • The room has sporadically placed accents that make the room feel “like home” such as plants, flowers, and charming décor. There’s softness throughout the room. Example: a bench with soft cushions for students to sit on when reading with a friend. A loving climate has been set. This class has a mission statement: We the students in room 9

will treat others the way we want to be treated and respect ourselves, others, and our school.

• It is taken seriously. I’ve yet to hear any bullying, name calling, or laughing at a peer’s expense. • Since the room feels socially safe students are willing to share thoughts freely and there’s full participation in class.

2. Social Contact

◦ Social contact between students will help develop social and life skills. Leaning how to positively interact with peers is vital for future success. ◦ Student interaction is greatly influenced by the arrangement of a classroom. ◦ The seating arrangement by a teacher can aid in classroom management depending on the desired amount of interaction within the room. ◦ If desks are arranged in rows interaction is limited. This may be preferable for teachers who are concerned about excessive talking during instruction. Unfortunately rows can inhibit the ability of students to perform group or partnered tasks. ◦ Clusters of desks promote social contact by allowing students to face their peers. This seating arrangement is preferable if assigned work commonly involves working together as a group or partners.

Social Contact: Ms. Anderson’s 2


Grade Classroom

• • • At the beginning of the year Ms. Anderson was given desks to use in her room. She chose to trade with another teacher and use tables instead. There are four students per table (two on each side).

This seating arrangement enhances social contact in the room. Students are often told to “take a minute to share thoughts with their neighbors” about content being learned in class.

3. Symbolic Identification

◦ Symbolic identification refers to the information a setting provides about the people who spend time there (Weinstein et al., pg. 35).

◦ Students’ interests, backgrounds, and cultures should, in some way, shape, or form be represented around the room. ◦ Classrooms should be personal and directly reflect the goals, dreams, and personalities of those who inhabit it. ◦ Students should feel like the classrooms is their classroom. ◦ Note- Teachers can easily obtain décor for their rooms from stores such as Lakeshore but these purchases are generic and don’t address the specific individualities of students. It’s okay to have some premade décor but teachers should try to display decorations that are personalized and help students identify with their surrounds.

Symbolic Identification: Ms. Anderson’s 2


Grade Classroom

• • I’m going to speak on the classroom’s mission statement again: Each student signed the mission statement Students were given the option to either draw themselves or glue a photo next to their signatures.

I’ve often seen mission statements and rules hung in classrooms that are typed or written neatly by a teacher. This is the first time I’ve ever seen them displayed with signatures from the students. This poster is specific to Ms. Anderson’s students and can’t be mistaken for anyone else’s. The students are able to directly identify with the mission statement.

Many students like to give their teachers small gifts such as letters, cards, drawings, and photographs. Ms. Anderson has displayed her gifts on a bulletin board behind her desk. The bulletin board tells so much about the lives of her students outside of school. For example there’s a picture of one student holding her newborn brother and another picture of a student with his family dog.

4. Task Instrumentality

◦ Task instrumentality refers to ways in which an environment can help or inhibit students from carrying out daily tasks (Weinstein et al., 37).

◦ Classrooms should have a well thought layout and be organized. ◦ For example, if there’s a sink for students to wash their hands it would be ideal for arts and craft supplies to be in the near proximity for cleanup.

Task Instrumentality: Ms. Anderson’s 2


Grade Classroom

• • • • Items are strategically placed throughout the room for easy access.

All materials relating to writing grouped together on a shelf. The materials include paper, creative prompt ideas, pencils, letter blocks, word sorts and more (top left).

Shelves line the walls holding labeled cubbies to help students find easily find the book of their preference. Labels include series such as “Junie B. Jones” or general categories such as “China” (top right).

All math manipulatives are located and labeled, such as “Base 10 Blocks,” on a shelf in the back of the room (bottom left).

The Promethean Board is conveniently located at the front of the room it’s visible to all students from their desks (bottom right).

5. Pleasure

◦ Physical environments should contain components that its habitants find attractive and pleasing.

◦ Aesthetic concerns shouldn’t be brushed under the rug since students and teachers spend a substantial amount of time in the classroom. ◦ Students respond positively to the presence of variation in the room. Therefor rooms should offer both cool and warm colors, open spaces as well as cozy areas, and both hard/soft textures (Weinstein et al., pg. 39).

Pleasure: Ms. Anderson’s 2


Grade Classroom

The classroom walls are lined with large windows overlooking a school garden. Ms. Anderson has provided the students with books about birds, and hung a student drawing of a Cardinal (the school mascot) which are displayed on the windowsill. Students excitedly watch birds eat from feeders and build nests in the trees.

6. Growth

◦ This function is very relevant within the classroom because as teachers we want to promote development (Weinstein . ◦ Growth can be an a variety of areas including physical, social, self-concept, academic, and cognitive development.

◦ Classrooms should offer opportunity for exploration and critical thought. ◦ Discovery should be promoted by the environment surrounding our children.

Growth: Ms. Anderson’s 2


Grade Classroom

• • Below- The school has embraced the 7 Habits of a Leader which are displayed in the room. The 7 habits are to aid students in becoming independent. Right- Ms. Anderson has leadership roles within her classroom assigned to students such as cubby organizer, attendance helper, etc. Every two weeks the children switch roles giving them experience in all positions. By having roles the classroom is essentially student run promoting independence, team work, and responsibility.


◦ Weinstein, C. S., Romano, M. E., & Mignano, A. J. (2015). Elementary management: Lessons from research and practice (6 th Hill.


Ed.). New York, NY: McGraw ◦ All photos taken from Ms. Anderson’s 2 nd School in Henrico County. Grade class (room 9) at Crestview Elementary