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Inclusive Learning Environments: Designing for Diverse Learners

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Thank you for joining me today for this session on inclusive learning environments. This is a meaty subject lot of differing views about inclusion and universal design, about how much to try to support specific needs, as well as a lot of ongoing research about what works best for different types of learners in terms of both teaching methods and design features. As our students continue to get more diverse, there are great opportunities for design to make a difference.1

INCLUSIVE ENVIRONMENTSJulie Walleisa, AIA, LEED AP, ALEPPrincipal, Dekker/Perich/SabatiniDiverse Learners & InclusionImpact on Learning and BehaviorTeaching MethodsLearning EnvironmentsBenefits for All

I am an architect and educational planner with a psychology background, so I focus mainly on planning and design for specialized learning environments.Today were going to go over some background on the current diversity of learners and growth in classroom inclusion, look at the impact that different types of disabilities and learning styles can have on learning and behavior, and look at how certain teaching methods and classroom design strategies can help many different types of learners succeed.



Windows & uniform lighting

Display space & casework

Part of this involves questioning assumptions about current classroom trends and characteristics. There are some strategies that are very commonly used because they are assumed to benefit student learning, and do for some students, but may pose concerns when viewed from the perspective of students with different types of specialized needs.



Lets start with some background4


Todays classrooms have more diverse learners than ever. A single classroom may contain students who have sensory, motor, cognitive, or learning disabilities, are gifted and talented, have mental health or behavioral issues, and have differences in native language, culture, and background, all of which can keep students from fully benefitting from their education and make it hard to find one-size-fits all solutions to classroom design.5

If we look at it by the numbers: About 12% of public school students receive special education services, which is 5.8M students6

Of those students receiving special education, 75% are students with high-incidence disabilities and the rest have low-incidence disabilities. Those terms just reflect how frequently these occur, as defined by the department of education. High incidence typically includes students with intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, speech or language impairments, and emotional or behavioral disturbances. Low-incidence typically includes students with sensory impairments, autism spectrum disorders, physical/health disabilities, or traumatic brain injury.7

Within the high incidence category, over 2M students, or about 40% of the students receiving special education were identified as learning disabled. About 19 percent or just over 1M students are receiving services for speech and language impairments that are not secondary to other conditions like deafness or intellectual disability. And 6.4 percent are receiving services because of an emotional disturbance. This category covers a wide range from depression, withdrawn behavior, and anxiety, to aggression and schizophrenia, and many students with EBD in inclusive classrooms also have learning or language disabilities.


Identification has been increasing for both students with autism spectrum disorders, and students with ADHD. Numbers vary a bit from study to study, but about 1 in 68 children exhibit ASD at age 8. Since 1991, when information about students with autism was first collected, the numbers of students with autism receiving a special education has increased by over 7,700 percent. ADHD is believed to affect approximately 5 percent of the school-age population, so it is much more common than diagnoses of autism spectrum disorders.


I wont go through statistics for all of the rest, but there are also a couple of other student populations that are important, and arent always considered when we talk about inclusivity or diverse learners About 21% of US residents over the age of 5 speak a language other than English at home, which means there are more than 11 million school-age children whose primary language is not English. And 16 million children, or approximately 20%, were identified as poor, which can increase the probability of learning and developmental difficulties. Black, Hispanic, and Native American children are more than twice as likely to be poor compared to white students.


4. Slide here (graduation rates)Change order, show in descending order


Some people may doubt whether all of these types of diverse students, and not just those with obvious physical or cognitive impairments, actually need more support Graduation rates indicate that they do. Compared to the national average of 80%, many types of students have significantly lower chance of graduating. Students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, different racial or cultural backgrounds, students with disabilities, and those with first languages other than English, are all less likely to graduate as shown here



There has been a slow evolution in thinking about what is best for students with special needs. Before 1970, there were basically no legal rights to protect their interests, so many considered it acceptable to deny them access to education or segregate them from their peers. Then a series of legislation from 1970-1990 focused on improving access to education. Section 504 banned recipients of federal funds from discriminating on the basis of disability. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or IDEA, focused on improving identification of children with disabilities, protecting their rights, and helping states provide education for all children with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) gave civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities. Together, these focused on improving access to education which basically required school districts to provide a free appropriate public education to students with disabilities. After 1990, the focus shifted to quality of education and the least restrictive environment for learning. Amendments to IDEA focused on increasing the quality of programs and services, and serving students in the least restrictive environment through more individualized approaches to learning. Amendments to the ADA expanded the definition of major life activities to include reading, concentrating, and thinking, which expanded the number and range of students eligible under Section 504. These laws continue to support the need to serve all students in a more inclusive environment while still meeting their individual needs. This evolution in legislation has changed daily school life for millions of students, and may continue to evolve


This move to the least restrictive environment means many learners with special needs are now in general classrooms with their non-disabled, typically developing, English-speaking peers rather than segregated in special schools or classrooms. This varies by type, with the highest levels of inclusion being students with learning disabilities and language impairments, and lower but growing levels of inclusion for other types of students.13

Please change separation to segregation and fix typo should be integration not intergrationINCLUSION


Some schools use the inclusion model only for students with mild special needs, or only for some of the time. There are key differences between integration and inclusion. Integration usually means students are placed in mainstream education settings with some adaptations and resources, but on the condition that they can fit in with pre-existing systems and classroom environment. Inclusion is about learners with special needs and other exceptionalities being educated alongside their peers with a commitment to removing all barriers so everyone is equally valued and can fully participate. (diff between making student fit the environment and making the environment fit the student)


How does this impact learning and behavior?What environments and teaching methods work best for different types of diverse learners?What are the commonalities that can benefit multiple types of learners?


So given the diversity of learners that may be together in a classroom, how can we better understand how this impacts learning, behavior, and teaching methods? How can we design environments that support specific types of diverse learners while finding commonalities that can benefit all students?15


We can start by drawing some lessons from spaces designed specifically for children with certain impairments and learning issues and generalize from them to things that can work in an overarching way.


ADHD & AUTISMHeightened sensory issuesPrefer low noise, low lightingLearning and concentration difficulties Fidgeting, interruptingIssues with views, direct daylight, multiple doors and windowsStressful transitions

Some students with very different disabilities actually have a lot in common when it comes to issues that can impact their ability to learn in a classroom setting. Students with ADHD and students with autism spectrum disorders both often have heightened sensory issues that can create a preference for low-lit spaces with minimal background noise and visual clutter, and both can be prone to concentration difficulties. Both types of students often show behaviors like fidgeting and interrupting, and studies have shown that students with ADHD and students with autism spectrum disorders can both have strong reactions to things like views of adjacent spaces, direct daylight falling onto their workspace, and spaces with multiple doors and windows. And both types of students, but most often students with ASD, can have difficulty with transitions from one activity to another or one space to another


ADHD & AUTISMEase transitionsAllow to sit near teacher, away from distractionsReduce posters and clutterVisual organizersQuiet, dimmable lightingNo mechanical noiseSeating options: standing, fidget chairsIncreased distance between work spacesEscape spaces and thoughtful transitions

Because of this, students with ADHD or autism disorders can benefit from classroom layouts that ease transitions, and that allow them to sit near the teacher but away from other distractions including doors, direct daylight, and views. And from classrooms that reduce clutter by hiding stored items rather than having open shelving, reducing posters and visual displays to just key information and needed visual organizers, and provide an environment where mechanical noise and noise and glare from lighting is reduced. They can also benefit from having a space within the classroom where they can choose to be temporarily separated from the group to get their bearings, and varied seating options that all provide more space between students than typical.18


In classrooms not designed for these needs, we often see solutions like this, where a child may be sitting apart from others and using a trifold board to exclude distractions. While this teacher is working with what she has, I think we can do a lot better not just for the student with autism, but for every student in this class to have a more supportive environment.19


Southwest Autism Center, RSP Architects, http://bespokedesignstudio.com/sarrc-southwest-autism-research-and-resource-center

Some schools designed specifically for young students with autism incorporate lower lighting levels, calming colors, and minimal wall decoration to try to create a soothing environment where students can focus This type of soothing environment can also help students with emotional/behavioral disorders.20

AUTISMScoil Phadraig Naofa, Convent Hill Bandon, http://westcorktimes.com/home/archives/16596

Many focus on giving students individual space with some privacy and a sense of order, like these mini-workstations for preschool students with autism in Ireland21

ADHDDarca High School in Kiryat Malachi, http://www.israel21c.org/israeli-school-builds-cool-classroom-for-adhd-teens/

Or these cubicles that give older students some separation without complete isolation, coupled with a clean, minimalist environment and ball chairs to support fidgeting, in this example of a classroom for high school students with ADHD in Israel.22


Faison Center for Autism, http://faisoncenter.org/

Transitions from one space to another can be particularly hard for students with autism spectrum disorders, who can struggle with processing change Some school designs incorporate wide hallways with curves and bends (rather than long straight hallways), and include obvious landmarks, to help students anticipate the sequence of what they will pass and when theyll arrive at their space. 23

AUTISMHarrod Design | Research, http://harrodd-r.com/portfolio/thoughts-on-classroom-design-for-those-on-the-spectrum/

It can also be helpful to incorporate a transition zone between the hallway and each classroom to allow students time for processing24

AUTISMHarrod Design | Research, http://harrodd-r.com/portfolio/thoughts-on-classroom-design-for-those-on-the-spectrum/

This diagram of the ideal classroom for students with autism spectrum disorders (which is one of many conceptual diagrams for this) combines many of the elements that can lead to successful space for these students a transition zone to ease entry, different seating options and locations, reduced visual clutter, dimmable LED lighting and glare control at windows, acoustic control, and an adjacent quiet room to allow students to withdraw when needed. In many cases, this quiet corner is incorporated directly into the classroom. Creating seating choice through zones of different types of tables and seating, at different distances from the door, teacher, and other students, can provide options without having to rearrange furniture, which can be disturbing for students that have difficulty processing change.


Social isolationVocabulary and reading delaysAbstract words and multiple meaningsCognitive skills such as memory, planning and problem solvingAttention and behaviorWolters, Knoors, Cillessen, & Verhoeven, 2014, and Luchner, Slike, & Johnson, 2012HEARING IMPAIRMENTS


While permanent deafness and hearing impairments are a low incidence disability, many of these students are in inclusive classes, and at any given time many students in a classroom may be suffering from temporary hearing impairment due to allergies, ear infections, poor room acoustics, and background noise, so it is important to both serve the needs of students who are hearing impaired and understand how their ideal environment may work for these other conditions.Hearing loss may be combined with learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, or emotional/behavioral disabilities the most common potential impacts for students with hearing impairments are social isolation and difficulty with peer relationships, linguistic issues relating to reading, vocabulary, and particularly abstract words and words with multiple meanings, and cognitive skills related to memory, planning, and problem solving Students with hearing impairments often need to concentrate visually in order to take in information via lip reading, sign language, and other cues, and they can also suffer from issues with attention and behavior26

NMSD Library, D/P/S


Spaces dedicated to students who are hearing impaired usually focus on having excellent sightlines, since direct line of sight is necessary for person to person communication, and to see digital displays used for emergency notifications. Good, even lighting and contrast backgrounds help make it easy to see sign language and lipreading. Good acoustics helps students pick up on verbal cues from others and control the noise that can result from students who may not realize they are making extra noise27

HEARING IMPAIREDNMSD Dillon Hall, SSWAhttp://www.nmsd.k12.nm.us/

Students typically sit in the round, in a fairly rigid seating arrangement, to provide a good view of the teacher and other students for signed communication and lipreading. Minimizing visual distractions in the background of conversation can help with clarity, but still allow for some posting of visual information in other areas of the classroom. This is helpful because a lack of visual clutter is important to maintain attention and prioritize signed communication, but many students may benefit from visual clues that reinforce vocabulary development28

VISUAL IMPAIRMENTSLearn through alternate mediums/sensesOften require individualized instruction Limited incidental learningFrequent rearranging is challengingBenefit from reduced visual clutterSeating based on field of visionVaried needs for lightingAssistive devices and auditory support

Students with visual impairments often have some usable vision, but need to learn through alternative senses or media. They often require more individualized instruction, since visual impairments can limit incidental learning and require students to be deliberately taught things that sighted students pick up through casual observation. Frequently changing the layout of classroom furniture can be challenging and can pose safety hazards for these students, and they also benefit from reduced visual clutter and from auditory support of information that is presented visually. Beyond that, the needs of each student can vary tremendously each may have a different ideal seating location based on their field of vision, some may need more intense lighting while others prefer dim lighting or may fixate on exposed lighting sources, and students may benefit from different types of assistive devices. Many students with visual impairments often have other physical or cognitive disabilities as well.29

NMSBVI New Watkins Education Center, D/P/S


Rooms dedicated for visually impaired students often have larger table-style desks to provide room for assistive devices, shielded lighting that hides the view of the light source, shades that soften daylight from windows to control shadows, and tactile tools like those shown on the magnetic boards, for teaching math and abstract concepts.30

VISUALLY IMPAIREDNMSBVI New Watkins Education Center, D/P/S

These same features allow teachers to combine visual and tactile displays, and the table size allows teachers to sit next to students to offer assistance, and for the same furniture to be used for students in wheelchairs. 31

ESL/ELL/ENLMultiple means of representationVisual schedulesPeer and group learningIndividual attention

RISD Pecos Elementary, D/P/S

Students who are learning English benefit from multiple means of representation words in English and in other languages, pictures, multiple language labels, visual schedules, and other cues. These students also benefit from a high level of individual attention and from peer and group learning.32

A language disorder may exhibit itself as delayed speech in a preschooler, as a reading problem in the elementary grades, and as a writing difficulty at the secondary level.Lerner & Johns, 2015Can we make a graphic representation of this? Like as the kid grows, they are associated with each of these?LANGUAGE DISORDERS

Lerner & Johns, 2015LANGUAGE DISORDERS

Some impacts of learning disabilities seem related almost entirely to academic issues and best addressed by teaching methods rather than design features, such as students with language impairments These impacts may change with age - a language disorder may exhibit as delayed speech in a preschooler, as a reading problem in elementary school, and as a writing difficulty in high school. Many students with learning disabilities and language issues can also benefit from teaching methods that provide more individual attention, and room layouts that facilitate that type of teaching 33


So lets talk about some of the teaching methods that can help support diverse learners, and how this relates to universal design for learning. 34

Need image peer learning, cluster grouping, PBL


http://www.hotchalkeducationnetwork.com/behavior-management-strategies/ and http://www.specialeducationguide.com/wp-content/uploads/3_teens-wheelchair-yellow.jpg


Many students who have learning disabilities, speech and language impairments, and sensory impairments can benefit from pair or group learning structures. These can include 1:1 peer learning - working with just one peer who has mastered a skill can help a student who is still working on proficiency, and the language and social reinforcement of a peer can have a big impact.Similar but slightly different benefits can come from cluster grouping, where a group of students work on the same big idea but with differentiated curriculum to allow some choice, and varied intensity based on each students level of achievement. This can be especially beneficial for English language learners and students who are twice exceptional (meaning gifted with a learning disability). Project-based learning can also offer choices in how teachers present and facilitate instruction, and how students solve curricular and real-world problems.In design, we have to consider how pairs or groups of students might work together in the space, and what that means for room size, seating, lighting, storage, etc.35

Need image peer learning, cluster grouping, PBL


http://www.hotchalkeducationnetwork.com/behavior-management-strategies/ and http://www.specialeducationguide.com/wp-content/uploads/3_teens-wheelchair-yellow.jpg

1 Teach 1 ObserveCooperativeParallelStation1 Teach 1 Drift

Diverse learners can also really benefit from multiple teacher models, and classrooms set up to facilitate this. The most common models that can provide great support to a range of diverse learners in a single classroom are shown here. Cooperative teaching combines the content expertise of a general educator with the instructional accommodation expertise of a special educator. They can work together in different ways, which could be all of the time or for set periods of the day or only certain days of the week.Parallel teaching is more of a divide and conquer strategy, which can be helpful when the same lesson is taught, but smaller numbers are more manageable or when there is a need to give students more opportunities for response. Station teaching can be used to rotate students through groups for practice and review. This gives options for teacher-directed and self-directed work, and for teachers to adjust difficulty levels within groups. In one teach, one drift, one teacher may lead the group while the other teacher checks in with individual students to help address misunderstandings and provide additional support, or additional challenges. Similarly in the one teach, one observe model, one teacher can monitor progress, check performance, etc.All of these can also allow for mixed means of representation, or basically presenting the same info in different ways in response to different learning styles. They allow more customization for individual students, which can benefit nearly every type of student. Some schools may be able to accomplish multiple-teacher models by combining general and special education teachers within just 1 class of students, which just requires enough space flexibility to incorporate 2 teachers, or multiple stations. Others do this by combining 2 or more general education classes into a single learning studio with multiple teachers, which can require a different scale of space.36


More usable by everyone

Equitable Use Flexibility in Use Simple and Intuitive Use Perceptible InformationTolerance for ErrorLow Physical EffortSize and Space for Approach and Use

The whole concept of inclusive education and making learning environments work for everyone is related to the concept of universal design, which at its core is intended to make things more usable by everyone. The 7 principles of universal design shown here can be applied to everything from the design of a curriculum, to a classroom, to individual elements within the space. 37

Essentially, UDL is an educational concept or approach to designing instructional methods, materials, activities, and evaluation procedures in an effort to assist individuals with wide differences in their abilities to see, hear, speak, move, read, write, understand English, attend, organize, engage, and remember (Orkwis, 2003).


Universal design for learning is a specific application of universal design. It advocates for alternatives that make curriculum accessible and appropriate for individuals with different backgrounds, learning styles, and abilities. This does not imply one optimal solution for everyone, but instead the need to accommodate differences, create learning experiences that suit the learner, and maximize his abilities. Essentially, UDL is an educational concept or approach to designing instructional methods, materials, activities, and evaluation procedures in an effort to assist individuals with wide differences in their abilities to see, hear, speak, move, read, write, understand English, attend, organize, engage, and rememberIn thinking about design solutions, it can be helpful to think about how strategies that are designed to help one type of student can in reality help many In the same way that ADA curb cuts designed mainly for people in wheelchairs are also beneficial to people pushing strollers or wheeling luggage, and closed captioning designed for folks with hearing impairments lets us all enjoy tv in gyms and bars,



So while there may not be one optimal solution that works for every child, there are many things that educators and designers can consider to better create inclusive environments for diverse learners. Lets look at some individual elements that can impact students learning and behavior. 39


Horizontal BlindsRoller ShadesSliding Boards

Nearly all classrooms built recently include large windows to foster daylight and views, because of the many studies that show positive correlations between access to daylight and views to nature, and student performance and wellbeing. These positive effects can be harder to achieve with students who have difficulty with direct light and distraction. Many schools use conventional mini-blinds because they are inexpensive, but these can be problematic for students with autism, ADHD, EBD, and visual impairments because they produce patterned glare and can be tempting to run your hands down. Alternatives like roller shades, frosted glazing, or sliding boards that can cover windows can offer less distracting control over natural daylighting.40


Santa Fe Community College D/P/S

Most classrooms provide very even, uniform artificial lighting, like that shown here, which may not meet the needs of all students. Using dimmable LED lighting broken into zones can allow for the creation of different levels of brightness and dimness within a single space. LED lighting is also a great way to avoid the buzzing and flickering of fluorescent lighting which can disturb many students with heightened sensitivity to sensory input. The dimmability of LED lighting can create appropriate levels of lighting for all students and different types of activities.41


Credit: RTM Associates Website;

There is a lot of research underway regarding the effects of circadian lighting. Natural light over the course of a day shifts from cool blue light in the morning and progresses to a whiter light during the middle of the day. The color of light as the day progresses toward evening becomes warmer, more red based.42


Increase alertness Improve reaction timeReduce lapse of attentionMeasuring and using light in the melanopsin age Trends in Neurosciences January 2014, Vol. 37, No. 1Credit: physiology of non-24

Bright blue light stops the production of melatonin and makes us more alert we react faster and were more attentive. Warm light starts the production of melatonin which helps us go to sleep. 43

Kongsgardmoen - School in NorwayLIGHTING DESIGN

A recent case study: Kongsgardmoen elementary School in Norway opened in Fall 2015. The school which houses about 280 first to seventh graders, has installed tunable LED lighting capable of mirroring circadian lighting. 44

Cool White Light for Concentration WorkWarm White Light for Relaxation

Credit: Nils Petter DaleLIGHTING DESIGN

When the children arrive in the morning they are greeted with a neutral light setting. Later in the day, the teacher may activate a focus light when its time for concentration tasks such as math tests or writing exercises, that provides intense, cool white light. For activities like storytime, teachers can activate a warm white light creates a nice and relaxing atmosphere. These adjustments are made by the teacher who are being trained to use the sophisticated system. This is a very interesting area of research, but also an area where we need to tread carefully, since it involves basically treating lighting like a drug that can have both positive and negative benefits.45

ACOUSTIC DESIGNMinimize disruptive background noiseControl in-room acoustics due to volume control issues or echolaliaMinimize mechanical noiseAbsorbent materials

Classroom acoustics that help minimize background noise can have a big impact on learning for students with impairments that affect their concentration or hearing or make them more sensitive to sensory input. They can benefit everyone working alongside a student that may make added noise due to echolalia or volume control issues. Mechanical system design should focus on minimizing mechanical noise by use of quieter types of systems, with larger ducts, round ducts, and lined ducts to dampen mechanical noise, and appropriate duct routing to avoid transferring noise between spaces. Careful acoustical design of wall partitions and use of in-room sound absorbing materials can also help reduce distraction and make it easier for all students to work together well, hear instruction, and concentrate on focused tasks. 46


Youve probably all seen classrooms that are covered in layers of display materials and decorations, like this example There is a very fine line between providing useful visual information to support learning, and providing overwhelming visual clutter that detracts from learning. The challenge is that that line may be different for every student in the class. . 47

Murray Elementary School D/P/SNex+Gen Academy D/P/S


Some best practices to consider are: minimizing unnecessary wall posting and locating supportive visuals such as word boards and visual organizers away from the direct line of vision during instruction, to benefit students with distraction issues, visual impairments, and hearing impairments. 48

DISPLAY SURFACESTravis 6th Grade Academy D/P/S

Glare can be minimized by using matte wall surfaces and matte projection surfaces, avoiding lighting that spotlights boards to create glare, and mounting boards at 5-10 degree tilt.49

CASEWORK STORAGESundance Elementary School D/P/S

Many classrooms use custom casework to create efficient storage with built in drawers, cabinets, and layers of sliding whiteboards. This can be a great way to keep needed supporting materials and assistive devices right in the classroom, and be able to bring just the appropriate whiteboard material to the front as needed, while avoiding visual clutter by hiding stored items from view 50

CASEWORK STORAGESundance Elementary School D/P/S

But hardware solutions may need to be considered so that the casework itself doesnt become a distraction for some students with ADHD or autism spectrum disorders, few things are more tempting than the repetitive motion of sliding whiteboards Even handle pulls can be tempting to the point of distraction for some students, so some districts have had great success using strong magnet closures rather than typical hardware. 51


The growth in more open learning environments with a variety of seating options and learning stations is great in many ways It offers choice in seating postures, lets students move around as needed, and offers a lot of flexibility for different teaching methods. However, these more open environments can have a lot of activity going on at once and are often frequently rearranged, which can be challenging for many students. Students that are easily distracted or have hearing impairments may struggle with the amount of activity going on and lack of a clear focal point and clear line of sight. Students with autism spectrum disorders or visual impairments may struggle with the rearrangement of the space, and with positioning themselves in an ideal spot. These issues can be mitigated by creating zones with less distraction, fixed zones for different types of activities that dont require rearranging, and peer learning or multiple teacher structures to provide individual attention. 52


All images courtesy of Steelcase

There are some great products out there that have been promoted as supporting various types of learning and learners Some of these are designed to be easily used in many different configurations for lectures, discussions, group work, etc. and try to help with decluttering by providing a base to hold student belongings53


All images courtesy of Steelcase

There are many variations on this theme from different seating manufacturers Weve used some of these successfully in higher education settings, but they pose concerns for some students. 54


Credit: www.imgarcade.com;

Other than having wheels, these are a pretty simple evolution of the traditional attached chairs and desks, with similar benefits and limitations With any product, it is important to consider how well it will really work for students of different physical sizes (who may not fit well into the chair), students with varying mobility or the need to use mobility devices (who may not be able to transfer into this kind of chair or easily join a group like they can with a freestanding table), and students that may be distracted by wheels and moving tablet arms, or not be comfortable with the kind of close proximity required to work in small groups with just small tablet arms to put together 55


Im more encouraged by options that allow students to choose different types of seating within a single environment, adjust the distance between themselves and others, and configure seating in ways that encourage student to teacher and student to student connections. 56


Learning environments for young children can often easily provide a space where students can separate themselves from the group to get their bearings a soothing area to escape to when they become overwhelmed or where they can watch the activities at a distance until they are comfortable enough to participate



But that space can also be a technology corner or a different type of seating area that allows students to withdraw a bit while still working This can allow students to move around if they need physical activity, change to a standing position, move away from distractions, or change to an area that works better for them for the current activity.



Sundance Elementary School D/P/S

It can also be a space outside of the classroom that allows for more relaxing activities or for small group work, and might be able to double as a transition zone


Nex+Gen Academy D/P/S


Learning studios for multi-teacher methods can take a variety of configurations In this example, each is the size of 2 typical classrooms to allow for 2 teachers to work with each group of students in a flexible co-teaching arrangement and to provide space for project-based learning. The transparent walls and lack of doors allow supervision of students working independently in nearby spaces. This 2-teacher setup can work well for giving more individual attention, and the long rather than square room naturally provides some variation in factors like distraction and lighting.60

Parents worry inclusion might:Take the teachers attention away from their own childSlow the class down to gear lessons to slower learnersExpose their child to potential behavior issuesBENEFITS FOR ALLhttp://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/inclusive-education-benefitshttp://staff.pausd.org/~areyes/B_Park_Inclusion/Resources/Resources_files/Inclusion%20Research.pdf

Many of these teaching strategies and design strategies can help improve attention, behavior, and learning for all sorts of students But there is also a less tangible benefit of inclusive learning environments Many parents worry that having a child with special needs in the classroom may take the teachers attention away from their own child, or slow the class down to gear lessons to slower learners, or expose their child to potential behavior issues. 61

Studies have found:No difference in instructional time or time lost to interruptionsChildren are more compassionate, have better social skills and higher self-esteemChildren exhibited increased patience with slower learners and more ease with people with disabilitiesBENEFITS FOR ALLhttp://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/inclusive-education-benefitshttp://staff.pausd.org/~areyes/B_Park_Inclusion/Resources/Resources_files/Inclusion%20Research.pdf

Studies to date suggest that inclusion does not take away from instructional time or have any additional teaching time lost to interruptions, And the biggest intangible benefit is that children in inclusive classes have been found to be more compassionate, with better social skills and higher self-esteem. They exhibit more patience with slower learners and more ease with disabilities, and this comfort level and social skills will serve them well in the future.62

Change over time:Mid-1990s: 48% visual, 19% auditory, 35% kinesthetic-tactile2006: 90% prefer the visual modePercentage of learners with visual preferences has nearly doubled in the past 10 yearsWhat will preferred sensory modes be in 20 years?LEARNING PREFERENCESSousa, 1997; Swanson, 1995, Holt & Kysilka, 2006; Jensen, 1998

We all know that different students learn differently, but studies suggest that preferred learning modes will continue to change. Studies conducted in the mid-1990s found that the sensory preferences of the students in the United States in grades 312 were as follows: 48% visual, 19% auditory, 35% kinesthetic-tactile. But, more recent studies, suggest that about 90% of todays learners prefer the visual mode. These findings suggest that the percentage of learners with visual preferences has nearly doubled in the past 10 years, which makes me wonder what the preferred sensory modes will be in another 20 years, and makes it even more important to look for ways to encourage multiple means of representation and expression to support learning


Ask about the present and future student populationDemographics, languages, disabilities, trendsAsk about issues experienced with learning and behaviorAny beneficial or problematic features in existing facilitiesTalk to Special Education, ESL/ELL, and other specialized teachers Even if not designing dedicated spaces for these functionsQuestion typical assumptionsPROCESS RECOMMENDATIONS

As I said at the beginning, there is no one size fits all solution But these examples provide ideas of issues to consider, and a way to embed this dialogue into design discussions. Architects should ask and schools should offer information to help guide design of better inclusive environments. Ask aboutConsider how typical assumptions about things like layout, lighting, materials, and furniture may benefit and detract from learning for different students



Ill post this presentation to our website if you are interested in seeing any of the images or sources, and Id be happy to discuss any questions65