04 SES 04 C, Within the Inclusive School: Building spaces, promoting participation
The theme of living spaces in general and of educational environments in particular is currently at the centre of attention. The relationship between person and environments is important because the structuring of space and the furniture layout influence the people and the actions that are performed, especially in relation to people with disability.
Examining the literature review, some physical variables have been highlighted: light, color, readability, linked to sensory functions: sight, hearing, touch, proprioceptive functions and the vestibular apparatus present in the environments recognised as significant for to positively or negatively influence the people with disabilities behaviour, in particular with autism (Gaines, Bourne, Pearson, Kleibrink 2016).
Most of the existing literature focuses on sensory and spatial issues and some recommendations are presented on what are the most significant aspects of spatial layout to help architects to design environments appropriate to these people (Mostafa, 2008).
In the search of Rachna Khare (Khare, Mullick, 2009), they conclude that there is a very close relationship between educational spaces and performance. The research is based on the belief that the learning outcomes of children with autism can improve in adequate physical spaces, following various experiments and tests, in numerous schools of various degrees.
It does not seem difficult to design new schools with adequate space, also for the needs of people with disabilities in general and with autism in particular, on the basis of the researches that have been carried out and which give indications about some design lines ((Khare, Mullick, 2009). In many researches, spatial elements are highlighted to be used in the design of the environments in order to promote the wellbeing, the autonomy and skills of people who may need special care (Altenmüller-Lewis, 2017).
However, it becomes interesting to identify what can be the most practicable solutions in old schools, what changes can be made to adapt the existing spaces that, in an inclusive perspective, have characteristics to accommodate all students, with and without disabilities, with low cost investments, but with effective results in terms of learning and inclusion.
Italy has a forty-years tradition of students with disabilities inclusion in schools and common classes, but in case of necessity, the present spaces are used to obtain “support rooms” isolated and outside the classroom of the student with autism; in recent times we have begun to ask whether it is possible to improve the educational environments to make them more inclusive, so that it is not necessary to exclude the child with autism from the class group.
The furniture and the spatial organisation should be a support to democratic (Dewey, 1916) and inclusive school in which an active teaching methodology is implemented and aimed to increasing students responsibility, autonomy and communication, using differentiated teaching strategies (from direct education, to apprenticeships, to social constructivism) and according to the different learning characteristics.
The challenge is to be able to design and implement flexible solutions that make it possible to adapt the spaces according to the different educational solutions and the special needs in existing schools, with restructuring measures having a low economic impact. An interdisciplinary work is necessary to face it, supported by an inclusive commitment shared by the professionals of the different areas of intervention
Starting from an analysis of the most recent literature on the subject, the questions that guided the research were:
- How could a classroom be organised at the level of setting so that all students can stay well in class and learn in the best conditions?
- Can the creation of ad hoc spaces (soft corner, relax corner, lair) inside the classroom improve the inclusion of all children?
The research analyses three schools, in two different countries, Denmark and Italy. They are particularly illustrative for their characteristics, highlighting project ideas and similar themes, although they are not comparable due to differences in the cultural, historical and social context of the two countries. In Denmark, at Hellerup Folkeskole in Gentofte (Copenhagen), for children aged 6 to 15. This school is total open space. The choice of Denmark was made for three reasons. The first concerns the investments made in the school after the not brilliant results in the OECD-PISA 2000 survey; the second reasons pertain to the investments that involved the new schools design, where an innovative teaching method was proposed putting the student at the center of education with its different learning style (McGrane, 2012). The third is historical, since 1844 in Denmark legislative measures were issued giving importance to the influence of educational spaces on child development (Vindum, 2006-2007). The other part of the research concerns Italy, in particular two secondary first-degree schools: “Piersanti Mattarella” in Modena, built according to the latest legislative provisions and architectural indications, and “J. F. Kennedy” in Vado (Bologna) which has reorganised internal spaces, without any structural intervention. All schools are characterised by being the result of a shared design process with the teachers and by having important participation of families. This research was carried out by adopting the ecological paradigm (Mertens, 2010), with a strong hermeneutic and orientative value (Mortari, 2012), and envisaged the use of qualitative survey techniques, such as the “Case Study”, according to an inductive vision. This has allowed a thorough understanding of the situation and to simultaneously safeguard the features of real life events (Yin, 2003). The research group availed itself of the contribution both of the prof. Arnaldo Arnaldi of the Polytechnic of Milan and of architect Chiara Filios of Normalearchitettura-Milan to analyze the spaces and their organization. Fundamental aspects, together with the use of new technologies, to promote inclusion and propose a new teaching model in which the student is at the center, as the protagonist aware of their own learning. With regard to data collection, various techniques have been used (Silvermann, 2002), maps and documents provided by schools and available on the web, videos and photographs, geometric and photographic surveys, school spaces, collection of all data (static, dimensional, ...), direct observation of school premises, objects, interactions, group and individual interviews (principals, teachers and students).
Some concepts should guide the design and/or the learning environments reorganisation: readability, flexibility, semantotopics, affordance and invisible or latent pedagogy. The ‘readability’ of the spaces refers to the possibility of categorising and recognising them immediately through certain elements that allow their orientation (Kaplan, 1987, Lynch, 2006). There must be an “intrinsic flexibility or actual variety”, that the architects call “built-in-flexibility” (De Bartolomeis, 1983), the spaces can be “expanded” or “reduced” according to the active teaching proposals and to the learning characteristics of each student. The design of an educational environment represents a process of attributing meaning to environments, defined as ‘semantotopic’ (Franceschini-Piaggesi, 2000). In order to design a physical space, that is, a ‘topical text’, the designers, the teachers and the students of the school must share the same meaning as well as refer to semantics. The inclusive education meaning need to be shared. The environments offer ‘affordances’ (Gibson, 1999), which is a kind of ‘invitation’ through the existing objects that guide actions. The spaces organisation influences the behaviours of humans in an ‘invisible’ way (Bernstein, 1979) through the ‘latent pedagogy’ (Bondioli, 2008) which is often passively accepted and experienced by teachers. In the inclusive school there is awareness of this influence and the flow of informal exchange between teachers and students helps to create a collaborative atmosphere, educational community and to overcome the disciplines fragmentation. All this involves the creation of distinct areas in the classroom for diversifying the activities. A “quiet area” should be created where all students, especially who are over-stimulated, such as students with autistic syndrome, emotional or behavioural problems, could find a space and time to be alone, if necessary for them, and to self-regulate themselves (McLesky, Rosenberg, Westling, 2013). The flexible and changeable setting has allowed inclusion, multiple teaching strategies and learning personalisation.
Altenmüller-Lewis (2017), Designing Schools for student on the Sprectum, in «The Design Journal, Vol. 20. Bernstein B. (1979), Classi e pedagogie: visibili e invisibili, in E. Becchi (Ed.), Il bambino sociale, Feltrinelli, Milano. Bondioli A., Nigito G. (Eds.) (2008), Tempi, spazi, raggruppamenti., Junior, Azzano S.Paolo. Boys J., (2017) Disability, Space, Architecture: A Reader, Routledge, Abigdon-New York. De Bartolomeis F. (1983), Le attività educative. Organizzazione, strumenti e metodi, La Nuova Italia, Firenze. Dewey J. (1916), Democracy and Education, The Macmilian Company, New York. Franceschini G., Piaggesi B. (2000), La progettazione degli spazi nella scuola dell’infanzia, Franco Angeli, Milano. Gaines K., Bourne, A., Pearson M., Kleibrink M. (2016), Design for Autism Spectrum Disorders, Routledge, New York-London. Gibson J.J. (1986), Ecological Approach to Visual perception, Elbaum, Hillsdale-London. Giofré F. (2010), Autismo. Protezione sociale e architettura, Alinea, Firenze. Juelkjær M. (2012), School architecture and learning conditions, a Danish case, in «Jianzhu Jiyi», June, pp.69-71. Khare R., Mullick A. (2009), Incorporating the Behavioral Dimension in Designing Inclusive Learning Environment for Autism, in «Archnet-IJAR», 3, 3, pp.45-64. Lewin K. (1936), Principles of Topological Psycology, McGraw-Hill Book Company Inc., New York-London. Lynch K. (1960), The Image of the City, MIT Press, Boston. Marcarini M. (2016), Pedarchitettura. Linee storiche ed esempi attuali in Italia e in Europa, Studium, Roma. McGrane S. (2012), Open Spaces Transform Danish Education, in «The New Street Journal», 18.01.12. McLesky J.L., Rosenberg M.S., Westling D.L. (2017), Inclusion: Effective Practices for All Students, Pearson, Boston. Merriam S.B. (2001), Qualitative Research and Case Study Application in Education, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco. Mertens D.M. (2010), Research and Evaluation in Education and Psychology, Sage, Thousand Oaks (CA). Mortari L. (2012), Cultura della ricerca e pedagogia, Carocci, Roma. Mostafa M. (2008), An Architecture for Autism: Concepts of Design Intervention for the Autistic User, in «Archnet-IJAR, International Journal of Architectural Research», 2, 1, pp.189-211. Sandri P. (2014), Integration and Inclusion in Italy: Forward a “Special” Pedagogy for Inclusion, in «ALTER - European Journal of Disability Research Revue Européenne de Recherche sur le Handicap», 8/2, pp.92-104. Scott I. (2009), Designing learning spaces for children on the autism spectrum, in «GAP», 10, 1, pp.36-51 Silvermann D. (2000), Doing Qualitative Research, Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks. Vindum K. (2006-2007), A misura di bambino. Due scuole di Arne Jacobsen, in «Casabella», 750-751, 2006-2007. Whitehurst T., (2006), Impact-of-Building-Design Good Autism practice, in «GAP», 7, 1, pp.31-38. Yin R.I. (2003), Case Study Research, Sage, Thousand Oaks (CA).
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