Project Proposal


How Do Students Feel Their Study Environment Affects Their Productivity?

By further examining research on how certain environments can have an effect on concentration, a comparison can be made with the attitudes and personal study environment preferences of uni students. Using this information found, I intend to curate a research project which is an exploration of the link between student study environment and productivity.

Does the environment in which you study affect productivity and overall performance at university? Why do some students prefer to study in areas other than the library? At the UOW campus, we as students are fortunate enough to have access to the UOW library which is an excellent space with plenty of resources. Whether it’s solo studying on a silent level or collaborating in a group study room. However, for some, including myself, the library atmosphere is not a productive place of study. Some students much prefer studying in alternative places, for example: the comfort of their own room, home, in the campus gardens or even in their favourite local coffee shop. But why is this so? How do they feel their study environment affects their productivity and how is this relevant to/proven by any previous studies?

By interviewing students within the BCM cohort, I intend to research and investigate the answers to the above proposed questions. My objective is to further my knowledge on the attitudes of students towards study environments in order to compare and question these attitudes against my personal experience with study environments and productivity. Using surveys and one-on-one interviews with my fellow students will make this attainable.

Interestingly, there are two opposing views found in regards to background noise when it comes to a productive learning environment. Mark A.W Andrews, director and professor of physiology at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pa explains that our concentration is very easily disrupted by background or low-level noise which can be found in the home, school or work. In an article written on Scientific American he raises the issue that in fact this background ongoing “white noise” can actually go on to affect people’s health increasing stress levels from restricting the release of cortisol. For the research project I will be studying, this concept ties in quite well as it might explain why students may feel more productive working on quiet “silent study” zones of the campus library rather than studying in an area with background noise which may stress or distract them.

On the other hand, academic journal article written by Ravi Mehta, Rui (Juliet) Zhu and Amar Cheema, “Is Noise Always Bad? Exploring the Effects of Ambient Noise on Creative Cognition” discusses the importance of ambient noise and notes that it’s an environmental variable which enhances creativity. Contrasting to Andrews ideology this article, in relation to my proposed research project, alludes to the idea that maybe in fact slight background noise is in fact beneficial to a student’s productivity as it evokes creativity.

Although the studies mentioned above highly relate to the study environment component of background noise and music, this is only one component of the different environmental aspects that can have an effect on study productivity. In a study conducted by the University of Salford in 2015 by Peter Barrett, Fay Davies, Yufan Zhang, Lucinda Barrett, “The impact of classroom design on pupils’ learning: Final results of a holistic, multi-level analysis”, 153 classrooms in 27 schools were assessed to identify how in fact physical features of a classroom affect academic progress of pupils. Although this study focused on classroom environment the basic principle still applies to my research as the experiment still focused on how environmental factors affect learning and study productivity. As described in the journal as a study of a general issue, namely “the impact in practice of physical spaces on human health and wellbeing” (Barrett et al., 2015). The environmental elements covered by the experiment included: light, temperature, air quality, owner- ship (as in the measure of both how identifiable and personalized the room is), flexibility (how the room addresses the need of a particular age group and any changing pedagogy, complexity (as in a measure of how the different elements in the room combine to create a visually coherent and structured, or random and chaotic environment) and colour (colour research shows room colour has an effect on both emotions and physiology causing mood swings that can have an impact on performance) (Barrett et al., 2015).

Taking into consideration the pre-existing information and research, it is evident that elements of a chosen study environment have an effect on students learning in regards to concentration, creativity and productivity. Using this research, I will gain a greater understanding of my topic when conducting my own research. My research will help explain why students may feel certain parts of their study environment affects their study and why they think they study more effectively in certain areas.



Stenger, M. and Stenger, M. (2019). How to Optimize Your Environment For Better Learning | InformED. [online] InformED. Available at: [Accessed 22 Mar. 2019].

Scientific American (2019) How does background noise affect our concentration?

Mehta, Ravi, Rui (Juliet) Zhu, and Amar Cheema. “Is Noise Always Bad? Exploring the Effects of Ambient Noise on Creative Cognition.” Journal of Consumer Research 39, no. 4 (2012): 784-99. doi:10.1086/665048.

Barrett, P., Davies, F., Zhang, Y. and Barrett, L. (2015). The impact of classroom design on pupils’ learning: Final results of a holistic, multi-level analysis. Building and Environment, 89, pp.118-133.





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