Learning about the urban environment : a case study of newcomers to Leicester
The aim of this thesis has been to gain an insight into the process of environmental learning in adults after a move to a new city. In particular, the research has aimed to discover more about the nature of the influences of certain factors that are thought to be a cause of differential environmental learning between individuals. Principal amongst these factors of interest have been gender, spatial ability, environmental disposition and modes of interaction with the environment. As a field of concern, the study has fallen within the domains of behavioural geography and environmental psychology (or within what some choose to call 'environment and behaviour' research). As such, the approach has been multi-disciplinary. Most theoretical input into the study has come from the learning and developmental theories of those who have studied child development. The study has adopted a part-longitudinal, part-cross-sectional framework, in order that the disadvantages of each might be minimized. Four separate field studies have been conducted using groups of individuals who had been living in the city of Leicester for three months, six months, twelve months and three years or more. The three month and three year groups were interviewed only once, but the six and twelve month groups were comprised of the same individuals, thus constituting the cross-sectional element. A total of one hundred and forty-six lengthy interviews were conducted by the researcher over the period of one year. Respondents have been selected on the basis of their length of residence in the city. Limitations of time and manpower have dictated the sample sizes, which have in turn demanded that certain variables not of primary interest to the present research but which might be expected to influence environmental learning, be controlled. As a reasonably homogeneous group on many of these variables (e.g. age, socio-economic status, life-style, life-cycle stage, and location of place of residence and place of work (and thus activity space)), postgraduate students and new members of academic staff to the University in the academic years of 1985 and 1986 have been chosen as the study population. A random sampling procedure has been adopted for the selection of respondents from this population for the sample groups. The interview schedules have contained a mixture of questions and tests/exercises which were aimed at eliciting the following information; the personal characteristics of the respondent, macro-spatial ability, environmental disposition and knowledge of the Leicester environment. Previous studies of this nature have concentrated on certain aspects of environmental knowledge (such as knowledge of distances between landmarks, or knowledge of the layout of the city centre), but this study has adopted a holistic approach aiming to achieve an insight into the acquisition of knowledge in general with all its interacting component parts. Thus the study has concentrated on both the quantity and quality of knowledge, and has questioned respondents on aspects of the city which have ranged from the structure of the city centre, to the nature of local industry and the geographical distribution of the unemployed. Information has been elicited using techniques which included sketch mapping, abstract spatial tests, response to both iconic and aerial photographs and normal questioning. The resulting data has been coded and compiled into a data matrix which was entered onto a Vaxcluster mainframe computer. The data has been processed using SPSSx.