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.

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QUESTION ASSUMPTIONSSeating & acoustics

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.

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BACKGROUND

Lets start with some background4

DIVERSE LEARNERS

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.

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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.

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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.

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

GRADUATION IMPACT

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

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LEGISLATION TIMELINE

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

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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

INCLUSION

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)

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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?

INCLUSION

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

LESSONS FROM OPTIMIZED SPACES

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.

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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. Bo