Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article


Master of Education




Riveros-barrera, A.


Despite the prevalence of portable classrooms in Canadian schools, research on their characteristics, utilization, and effects is limited. This study investigates portable classrooms in Canada through a two-stage research approach. First, it explored news articles to identify common concerns about portable classrooms in Canada. The dataset comprises 243 news articles. The analysis revealed three overarching concerns about these structures: 1) The factors that lead school districts to use portable classrooms; 2) Safety and comfort in portable classrooms; 3) Strategies to alleviate accommodation issues. Then, Nair’s (2014) principles of contemporary school design were used to critically interrogate the utilization of portable classrooms. The analysis highlighted the spatial characteristics and limitations of these structures. The study recommends improved funding and enhanced planning for schooling demand. It is suggested the design of new schools should consider more flexible modular structures that embody a clear pedagogical intentionality and promote the integration of surrounding communities.

Summary for Lay Audience

While a few studies have investigated the impact of portable classrooms in schools, research on the subject in Canada is scarce. The issues and concerns about these structures demonstrate the need for further investigation.

This study is divided into two sections: For the first stage, I collected 243 news reports and identified the most common themes. The analysis found that while many school stakeholders are not satisfied with portables, schools end up accommodating their overflowing populations in these structures. Austerity-driven policies and reactive approaches to school planning mainly cause this situation. The most frequent concern in the news is the poor physical condition of portable classrooms. This theme became the guiding theme for the second part of the study, which compares the physical condition of portable classrooms with what educational architects advocate regarding the design of learning spaces. To address the concerns regarding the inadequacy of portable classrooms as educational facilities, the study suggests that school boards should consider future growth when choosing new school sites so that additional structures would not impinge on outdoor activities. Second, the structures, design, and materials must be improved. Third, pedagogical intentionality, adaptability, and flexibility must guide future changes. Fourth, communities at large should participate in identifying the spatial needs of schools.