Fostering Positive Classroom Environments

Many educators and researchers consider the classroom environment as the third teacher, an additional resource for children to engage critical thinking and enhance their learning experiences.  Creating a creative classroom environment can be extremely effective in early childhood education programs.  In Cortes (2013) dissertation she discusses how teachers’ design of a classroom environment can be an effective tool in literacy instruction.

Research determined that children can spend more than 10,000 hours in early childcare programs before beginning their primary education.  Classroom environments should inspire children to explore and learn in an environment that is comfortable, safe and fun.  Using a case study design with participant observations interviews and literature reviews, Cortes selects a university laboratory preschool to conduct her study.  The literature review for the study is divided into four sections: child development laboratory schools, cognitive and development design methods and tools, and preschool design knowledge.

Adding to her breadth of knowledge, Cortes selects Cutler et al. (2012) research on laboratory schools utilized as places of inquiry.  Laboratory schools provide avenues and environments for researchers in education to collaborate with educators and students using the Reggio approach to education.  McBride & Hicks (1999) study on teacher training and research examines the relationship between teachers, researchers, parents and other community officials working in collaboration on child development in early childhood education.

Cortes utilizes another study of McBride with other collaborators as they research new models and approaches to early childhood education and development in the 21st century.  Another critical review that Cortes bases her study on is Rinaldi’s (2006) discussion on Reggio Emilia approach to learning in early childhood education.

  Reggio Emilia methodologies of documenting, observing and interpretation of children’s responses to classroom activities is considered to be one of the more prominent assessment tools, as well as training tools for teachers, used in early childhood programs.  Fostering nurturing environments for children to thrive emotionally, socially and intellectually requires several of the resources and tools that Cortes identifies and evaluates in her dissertation. “By combining many different elements in the classroom there is a sense of “rich normality” that allows a great variety of activities and learning experiences to take place”, (p 15.)

The inclusion of Guy et al. (2012) research on literacy environments supports Cortes argument that classrooms are living environments that add to the learning experiences of children in early childhood education.  Cortes states “The design of a classroom that promotes free-play activities by providing literacy props has been found to positively affect the interest that children show in including literacy behaviors while they play”, (p 25).


Cortes, C. (2013). Designing literacy rich classroom environments for young children: A study of teachers’ design processes and tools (Order No. 1546891). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (1460288065). Retrieved from

Cutler, K., Bersani, C., Hutchins, P., Browne, M., Lash, M., Kroeger, J., Brokmeier, S., Venhuizer, L., & Black, F. (2012). Laboratory schools as places of inquiry: A collaboration journey for two laboratory schools. [Electronic version]. Early Education and Development & Development, 23(2), 242-258. Retrieved February 5, 2013, from 89

Guo, Y., L.M. Justice, J.N. Kaderavek, and A. McGinty. The literacy environment of preschool classrooms: Contributions to children’s emergent literacy growth. [Electronic version]. Journal of Research in Reading. 35.3 (2012): 308-327. Retrieved February 20, 2013, from http://

McBride, B. A., & Hicks, T. (1999). Teacher training and research: does it make a difference in lab school program quality? [Electronic version]. Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, 20(1), 19-27. Retrieved February 7, 2012, from http://dx.doi. org/10.1080/0163638990200105.2012.647609

McBride, B. A., Groves, M., Barbour, N., Horm, D., Stremmel, A., Lash, M., Bersani, C., Ratekin. C., Moran, J., Elicker, J., & Touissaint, S. (2012). Child development laboratory schools as generators of knowledge in early education: new models and approaches. [Electronic version]. Early Education & Development,23(2), 153-164. Retrieved October 25, 2012, from

Rinaldi, C. (2006). In dialogue with Reggio Emilia. listening, researching and learning. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

2 thoughts on “Fostering Positive Classroom Environments

  1. Lisa,
    Thank you for sharing this insightful research article. I connected with your post because this is something that I would love to continue to explore when the time comes. I am now able to go in a direction that is helpful and allow me to understand what has already been done, and how to assist in future research. Cortes (2014) believes “classrooms are social places in which children and teachers learn together when they have opportunities to make decisions, test ideas and connect what is known to the unknown” (p. 14). Educators must be able to understand how children develop and their role in fostering experiences. This was a great article, thanks!


    Cortes, C. (2013). Designing literacy rich classroom environments for young children: A study of teachers’ design processes and tools (Order No. 1546891). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (1460288065). Retrieved from

    1. Tunyia,

      One of the things that impressed me and I continue to view is how important the physical classroom plays into early education programs. I read an article a few years back that discussed how everything from tables, chairs, the location of pictures on the walls, even shelving should be eye level for children. Designing a classroom fit for adults makes children feel small and uncomfortable. By designing their space at their eye level, it fosters a sense of belonging and comfortability. The physical design of the classroom is just as important as the instruction and curriculum. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me.

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