Enriched Environments to Support Social and Emotional Learning Outcomes

An Evidence-based Visual Design Guide

AIA Continuing Education Provider

1 LU

Evidence-based design for education environments is gaining momentum in the learning spaces industry. However, tools, resources, and education on how to best integrate research into the design of learning environments is still lacking. Through a coalition-based research partnership with the Center for Advanced Design Research and Evaluation (CADRE), Uplift Education, HKS, and funded by the American Society of Interior Designers Foundation, we developed visual design guide that connects evidence-based design strategies to teacher and student outcomes.

This presentation will present an interactive Visual Design Guide that is structured in four parts, the Challenge, the Framework, the Evidence, and the Guide.

The Challenge
From existential concerns triggered by climate anxiety (Marks et al., 2021) to the trauma experienced due to the likelihood of and actual gun violence experienced in schools (Sadat, 2022) – children are understandably experiencing a mental health crisis. To solve complex problems such as this, social and emotional learning (SEL) is an approach to education that helps children gain skills outside of typical school subjects like math, reading, and comprehension. Physical aspects of the school environment can be used as a tool to support instruction and positively impact outcomes associated with the whole student.

The Framework
Stimuli within the physical learning environment send cues about what students could do and should do, influencing the behaviors and learning processes that happen within these spaces (Barker, 1968). Therefore, a transdisciplinary, research informed framework should be utilized to connect design to outcomes. This visual design guide is anchored around the merging of a neuro-science informed framework, Enriched Environments, and the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning framework.

The Evidence
To visual design guide was developed based on the research question, how do attributes of the interior learning environment contribute to or inhibit social and emotional learning? To answer this question, a comprehensive literature review was conducted, citing over 95 empirical articles in the learning and workplace literature. In addition, in depth interviews were conducted with primary, middle, and high school teachers to explore how the built environment influences their approach to delivering SEL.

The Guide
The evidence-based visual design guide is a resource to be used by interior designers, architects, and educational planners that would like to incorporate design strategies on their projects that have been shown to influence student and teacher outcomes. The guide is composed of 20 EBD strategy cards (e.g., daylighting, access to nature, variety of furnishings, visual complexity) that are sorted based on the environmental stimulus (cognitive, social, motor, sensory), SEL outcome (if any), where the strategy falls on the design continuum (urban, landscape, architecture, interior, product, information), and space typology. In addition, details of all student and teacher impacts are detailed with citations on the backside of the cards for reference.

The final section is “from the teacher’s desk” that highlights insights learned from the teacher interviews that support and further illustrate how the design strategy impacts students and educators. We will then close out the presentation with a case study of Berry Elementary school, illustrating how these evidence-based strategies can be incorporated into a school building project, connecting design intent to hypothesized outcomes.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Identify the importance of an evidence-based approach to the design of learning environments.
  2. Gain an understanding the historical context and impacts of social and emotional learning, including recent studies on student mental and emotional health across the United States.
  3. Learn how to apply specific design strategies that stimulate motor, sensory, cognitive, and social functions within K12 education spaces that impact student and teacher outcomes.
  4. Demonstrate the utility and practicality of a research-based framework for designing education environments and application of pragmatic visual design guide to yield outcomes.
Renae Mantooth, PhD, WELL AP
Renae Mantooth, PhD, WELL AP
Sr. Design Researcher HKS, Inc.

Dr. Renae Mantooth is a Senior Design Researcher at HKS, where she integrates research efforts within the Education practice area. She also serves as an Assistant Professor of the Practice at NC State University, identifying as a "pracademic" - bridging the worlds of academia and industry towards a more evidence-based and equity-centered built future. Her work is grounded in the emancipatory nature of education. Challenging assumptions, advocating for all learners, and furthering our understanding of how the physical environment influences motivation and learning processes is the foundation for the questions she asks and the work that she does. 

Carleigh Henderson
Carleigh HendersonRID, WELL AP, LFA, LEED Green Associate
Project Interior Designer, Associate, HKS

Carleigh is a registered interior designer with a deep passion for learning environments and community driven design. She began her career interning at the University of Oklahoma’s internal capital project management department which gave her a lasting understanding of how owners navigate operations, maintenance, and longevity of their facilities. This foundational experience has influenced every part of her career as a designer dedicated to creating educational facilities that perform experientially and operationally. Carleigh believes that education is critical in shaping future generations and offers transformational opportunity that she is incredibly honored to help bring to life through design and architecture.

Leonardo Gonzalez Sangri
Leonardo Gonzalez Sangri
Global Practice Director, Education, HKS, Inc.

Leonardo is Global Practice Director for Education at HKS. Grounded in his belief that educational environments are paramount in the successful future of our society, he partners with clients to go beyond the status quo, and design with a vision for the future of the industry. His efforts are centered around strategic planning, advancing the building typology in education and creating spaces that provide inclusive educational experiences, enabling new pedagogies and supporting progressive educational opportunities. Leonardo has charged the studio to work tirelessly in advancement of student and teacher health and wellbeing as well as uncovering strategies to impact equity in access to opportunities for all students.

Track: Research

This track elevates Research on learning and learning environments and focuses on methodology, findings, and implications for practice. Tangible takeaways are encouraged, including tools and resources that support innovation and improvements to learning environments. There is Art in how we utilize Science to improve our design outcomes and our design and research process. To this end, dissemination of research findings is a priority so that learning environments are re-imagined and enhanced based on evidence and measured impact, not based on trends.

Primary Core Competency
Design of Educational Facilities: Acts as a resource to the design team in providing ongoing guidance and support to ensure that the emerging and ultimate design aligns with the established community vision, education goals, future programming, written design standards, best/next practices and education policy.

LearningSCAPES 2023

October 12-15 | Hilton Chicago

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