Faculty of Social Sciences
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Wang, Yiyu

Promote Active living through changes in the built environment
The aim of this project is to unravel the creative problem solving process in 5th grade mathematics education. Previous research has identified number sense and working memory as predictors of mathematics performance. However, creative problem solving is proposed to be an important, but less investigated, predictor of mathematics achievement. Within this project, it is investigated how creative problem solving, conceptualized in the form of divergent and convergent thinking, is related to mathematics achievement. Furthermore, it will be studied how domain-general and domain-specific child characteristics like number sense and working memory influence this relationship. Based on these findings, lessons will be developed to promote creative thinking within mathematics education. This project is part of a bigger study called ‘Strengthening creativity in math and science education’. As such, in the last phase of this project it will be investigated how transfer of creative thinking skills between mathematics and science can be promoted.

Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (PA) is a critical way to reduce chronic diseases such as obesity and enhance the population's health. Research shows that both the built and social environments impact individual behavior toward PA, but most of these studies are mono-disciplinary. The urban health niche theory and social-ecological model state that, in addition to personal factors, environmental and social factors contribute to changes in behaviors, and these three factors constitute a dynamic interactive decision relationship. Therefore inter-disciplinary studies in this field are much needed.

Research on the built environment focuses on spatial elements and place elements, thus having less concern for individual subjective initiatives such as the individual's psychological and behavioral characteristics and perceptions, preferences, and social network. On the other hand, the research on physical activity has thus far mainly focused on the importance of intrapersonal factors, thereby neglecting the role of the built environment on PA. In study 1, the built environment, social environment, and psychological and behavioral characteristics of PA will be set as keywords for a scoping review to link these two disciplines.
This review aims to provide state-of-the-art research that combines the two spatial planning and behavioral research disciplines on active behavior. The first study will reveal the research methods and findings of interdisciplinary research on PA and the blind spots in this area of research. Study 1 summarizes the research scope, clarifies research questions, and then extends to Study 2. Study 1 points out the need to understand the relationship between individual environmental perception and physical behavior(De Meester et al., 2013, Ding & Gebel, 2012). In Study 2, the perceived environment/ environmental perception, the built environment, and Physical activity will be set as keywords for a second review. In this review, the subjective perception of people with different characteristics of the built environment related to physical activity will be examined. Study 1 and Study 2 together aim to explore the research methods, measurement tools, and findings of interdisciplinary research on PA and reveal the blind spots in this area of research. Literature data will be collected through Web of Science, PubMed, Embase, PsycInfo database, and Google Scholar. At the same time, the findings will be used as theoretical and practical guidance for Study 3.
The built environment refers to the artificially modified and constructed communities, schools, homes, and office environments, including the artificial environment of activity areas such as bicycle lanes, fitness trails, etc., and also includes the potential built environment that can be changed through policies and human resources (Handy et al., 2002). Environmental perception refers to people's awareness or perception of the environment and an act of understanding the environment through the senses (Zube EH. et al. 1999). Recent studies suggest that the contrast between the objective built environment and individuals' subjective perceptions should be considered when studying the built environment and PA (Panter J, Guell C, Prins R, et al.2017). Study 3 will compare the built environment and residents' environmental perception, exploring the synchronization of residents' perceptions with the actual built environment. The research will use the questionnaire data from ‘Leefplekmeter’. The ‘Leefplekmeter ‘environmental perception questionnaire asks residents to score on a scale from 1(e.g., this is very bad, everything needs to be better) to 10 (e.g., this is very good, nothing needs to change) to environmental perception factors in the residential area. Factors including 1) walking and cycling, 2) public transport, 3) traffic and parking, 4) street and public areas, 5) nature and green, 6) play and leisure, 7) shops and sports facilities and GP, 8) work, 9) living, 10) contact nearby, 11) proud of the neighborhood, 12) security, 13)clean and neat, 14) participation. According to the questionnaire results, Study 3 will first identify the most satisfied and dissatisfied residents and extract the inquiries related to physical activities among them.
Furthermore, set the residents' age, gender, self-health perception, work status, education level, cultural backgrounds, etc., will act as controlled variables. Then, residents' PA-related perceptions of the neighborhood will be compared with the corresponding geodata of the built environment. Finally, the environmental characteristics of the built environment corresponding to good and bad environmental perceptions related to physical activity will be analysed.
Study 4 will be based on Studies 1 ,2 and 3. Study 4 will use an immersive virtual environment technology (IVEs) to further explore the residents' environmental perception. The research will design a suitable immersed virtual environment experiment for the ‘Leefplekmeter’ in Nijmegen, Rotterdam, and Zwolle. Participants will be selected in the questionnaire covered areas. Participants in the experiment will see the adjusted virtual environment through the VR device while wearing a heart rate monitor. During the experiment, participants will experience sitting, walking, and riding in the virtual environment. The images and space materials of the virtual environment will be acquired from the area covered by the questionnaire to facilitate comparison with the actual environment. The study design will follow five steps: (1) image acquisition; (2) image stitching; (3) image manipulation; (4) image conversion to a virtual environment; and (5) data collection(Smith, Jordan W. 2015). In the third step, image manipulation will test the research hypothesis by adjusting some components in the virtual environment, objective conditions, and the presence of built features, through which the perception, preference, and behavioral response data are collected. For example, through image manipulation, adjust the light in the virtual environment (for example, increase or decrease street lights, set different daylights) to observe participants' subjective perception and behavioral response in different brightness levels in the same scene. Given the use of the ranking method in the environmental perception questionnaire (Leefplekmeter) in Study 4, the immersed virtual environment will apply point identification. Point identification utilizes Eye-tracking technology, which maps the focal point of individual gaze to a static image to identify which features of the natural environment they pay attention to when viewing the image. The investigation will focus on examining individuals' perceptions, preferences, and behaviors relative to different stimuli has a long-standing interest in discerning which characteristics of a built and natural setting elicit specific responses(Lien Dupont et al.,2014).
Studies that combine the built environment, social environment, and behavior factors suppose that these three factors constitute a dynamic interactive decision relationship. The strength and pattern of the interactive relationship between any two factors vary with the behavior, individual, and environment. Study 5 is an extension of study 4 and will focus on changes in the built environment on individual physical activity globally. This study will comprise a comparison study between Dutch and Chinese cities. Physical activity-friendly city scores for Chinese cities are available, and contacts with Tsinghua University and Tongji University in China have already been established.

Prof. dr. Bert Steenbergen and prof. dr. Erwin van Krabben