SPaCE- Sensory Processing and Classroom Environments: Methodology for evaluating and improving teaching spaces for better student experience




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SPaCE combines building assessment and pedagogic research to establish improved ‘inclusive learning spaces’ to improve the health and wellbeing of all students, including those with a Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). A person with SPD finds it difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses. This creates challenges in performing countless everyday tasks and impacts upon many aspects of life including motor clumsiness, behavioural problems, anxiety, depression and school/college/university performance. Preliminary research has shown that this can affect the quality of the student experience and thereby their progression and retention. Whilst it is accepted that students with physical disabilities have specific environmental requirements and, where possible, reasonable adjustments are made, specific requirements for students with SPD are not normally considered at University. Practitioner experience in other educational contexts suggests that the physical layout of a classroom may be adapted to maximise student participation and engagement, enabling all students to benefit from a non-traditional classroom layout, but no academic research exists. The SPaCE methodology involves capture of data about the physical environment (lighting, temperature, air quality etc) simultaneously with the student experience in typical classrooms (through physical measurements, Sensory Profile questionnaires, observations, interviews and focus groups). This multi-method data set will provide us with a better understanding of conditions and how they are experienced by students, and to identify areas for improvement, to be implemented in a campus demonstrator project. The aim of the project is to provide guidelines for improved teaching provision, in terms of sensory processing issues, for dissemination within the wider education sector. This paper reports on an on-going project – the main rationale and methodology are described, with a focus on the mixed-method data collection approach and setup of the pilot study.


The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the URI link.


Sensory Processing Disorder, Higher Education, classroom environments


Bassford, M. and Painter, B. (2018) SPaCE- Sensory Processing and Classroom Environments: Methodology for evaluating and improving teaching spaces for better student experience. In: Elsharkawy, H., Zahiri, S., Clough, J. (eds) Proceedings of 2nd International Conference on Sustainable Design of the Built Environment (SDBE18), 14-16 September 2018, London, UK.


Research Institute

Institute of Energy and Sustainable Development (IESD)