Learning Environments Research, LER, Influences on Learning Environments

Learning Environments Research: Context Matters

December 11, 2018

What Is Learning Environments Research (LER)?

Learning Environment Research defined:

Dr. David Zandvleit started his talk on LER by sharing a personal story from when he was an elementary school student. He was deemed a “trouble maker” in one of his Science classes after being caught placing a dissected frog leg in the pencil case of a fellow classmate. Instead of punishing him, his teacher strategically placed him next to a girl whom the teacher knew David was fond of and who could have a positive influence on him. David explained how this subtle “tweak” to his learning environment changed his whole experience of Science education in school and beyond.

Learning Environment Research, or LER, involves using research tools to seek feedback from students themselves about their personal and collective experiences of learning in a variety of contexts. A great variety of approaches have been used in the study of educational environments—the diversity of student experience is one reason for the diverse sets of research tools and protocols employed by LER.

David summarised three distinct methodologies for assessing and studying classroom environments: naturalistic inquiry; interaction analysis; and finally the measurement of perceptions of the psychosocial characteristics of the classroom. While various methodologies may be employed, the measurement of classroom perceptions has been the dominant methodology due to a number of important advantages over other methods. For example, perceptual measures are considered to be simple to administer, are based on experiences over a longer period of time, and have been shown to account for considerable variance in student learning. In his LER, David tends to use surveys in combination with other qualitative methods such as interviews and observation.

Find out more: LER has its own journal published by Springer and is also developed through an active Special Interest Group (SIG) within the American Educational Research Association. In addition, Sense/Brill Publishers maintain this book series focusing on Advances in Learning Environments.

The Ecology of the Computer Lab OR Education Is Not Rocket Science

The second part of David’s talk looked briefly at research he did on technology integration in schools. The research showed the positive and negative ways the implementation of technology can impact learning and the importance of how technology is involved in teaching. Specifically he described political, social, and economic factors at work that greatly impact the technological environment in schools.

Learn about David’s studies in technology integration in schools in the book entitled: Education is Not Rocket Science (Sense Publishers). The most recent link to this research program was published in the Cambridge Journal of Education.


Dr. David Zandvliet is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada and the founding Director for the Institute for Environmental Learning.  An experienced researcher, he has published articles in international journals and presented conference papers on six continents and in over 15 countries.  His career interests lie in the areas of science and environmental education and learning environments. He has considerable experience in the provision of teacher development and has conducted studies in school-based locations in Australia, Canada,  Malaysia Sri Lanka and Taiwan.