Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (College of Arts and Science)

Schools and Centres

Arts & Sciences

First Supervisor

Doctor Robyn Creagh

Second Supervisor

Professor Sarah McGann


‘Architecture and Students’ Physical Activity in Learning Environments’ is a doctoral thesis that aims to understand how the physical activity behaviours of Australian children are influenced by school architectural environments. Physical activity (movement) and sedentary behaviour (sitting) play a major role in the overall health of children, yet Australian children are failing to meet the government recommendations (Active Healthy Kids Australia (AHKA) 2016). As most children spend a significant amount of their time in schools, it is important to understand how the learning environments influence them. The architecture of schools is perhaps the least changed architectural typology within contemporary society, and traditional schools with students divided into classrooms ruled by a single teacher still prevail in most Australian schools. These classrooms typically promote teacher-centred pedagogy and encourage sedentary behaviours. In contrast, contemporary nontraditional learning environments promote student-centred pedagogies and encourage physical activity. This project used a case study methodology with a mixed-method approach and a social ecological model as the theoretical framework. A single Montessori primary school was used as a case study with data collection methods, including architectural analysis, ethnographic observation, quantitative recordings of students’ physical activity behaviour and interviews with teachers and architects. The research provides new information for architects, school leaders, teachers and government organisations to inform the future architectural design of Australian primary schools. In the design of learning environments, I recommend that stakeholders focus on key factors that influence students’ physical activity behaviours, including acoustic design, adaptable open spaces, furniture selection and arrangement and outdoor learning environments. The research demonstrates that to improve students’ physical activity behaviours in learning environments, stakeholders must undertake a holistic approach that focuses on physical, social and organisation factors and involves architectural design, school policies and collaboration with all stakeholders.

Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."