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How can design improve learning environments in mainstream schools so they nurture children with special educational needs?


For my dissertation I researched into how design can improve learning environments in mainstreams schools for children with special educational needs and disabilities, this is commonly shortened to SEND. I chose this topic as 90% of children with special educational needs and disabilities attend mainstream schools and having volunteered in schools myself I have seen how children can be affected by not being able to access their learning as easily as others. My aims were to identify the barriers they face in the classroom, school environment and resources and how design choices can improve these environments. 


There are many different elements that make up a learning environment, I broke these down into four chapters so I was able to research further and develop a deeper understanding of which has the biggest impact on the child and how design can improve this.


The first chapter focuses on the impact of classroom design. There were three areas of focus in this chapter, the first being the history of classrooms, looking at how they have evolved with new technology and emerging challenges such as COVID 19. The second chapter explores the effects of the design choices in the classroom on students and the final chapter focuses on the role of design in improving the environment for children.


The second chapter focuses on the wider school environment, this includes shared spaces such as corridors, halls, toilets, playground etc as well as looking at how effective designated special educational needs spaces are. To conclude this chapter, the impact of the design choices in shared spaces is reviewed and discussed how these can be improved.


The third chapter focuses on individual classroom resources, this can be anything that helps a child within the classroom such as reading aid rulers for children with dyslexia or writing slopes for children with dyspraxia. At the start of the chapter there is a review of the current resources used to help SEND children and an analysis of how effective they are. The second subchapter focuses on the effects that resources have on the students, with an emphasis on designing for engagement. To sum up this chapter, there is an analysis of the impact of design choices of these resources on SEND children and how these can be improved further. 


The final chapter focuses on bespoke interventions within a mainstream school. Interventions are focused teaching programmes aimed at individuals or small groups of student with a particular need such as play therapy for children with ADHD or autism. Within this chapter current interventions that are used with SEND children are identified, considered how effective they are and explored the use of technology within them. The second subchapter focuses on the effect of the interventions on the students and analyses the impact of design on the engagement levels of students. The final subchapter focuses on the importance of the role of design choices in interventions and explores how design can improve them. 

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You can download and read my dissertation by clicking on the button below.

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