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Environmental audit

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What is it?

An environmental audit is a way of assessing the physical environment to ensure that it provides a safe and supportive learning space for all students. In particular, noise, temperature, lighting and seating arrangements have been found to have an impact on learning and participation. Teachers’ and students’ perceptions of their environment may differ. What some people take for granted can be overwhelming and upsetting for others. Therefore, while a teacher may complete an environmental audit, it is important to clarify with students what, if any, environmental factors are impacting on their learning and participation.

How do I use it?

There are a number of environmental audits available on the internet. Teachers and school communities may wish to investigate the use of these or develop their own audit taking. Example 1 (see below) provides a detailed description of an environmental audit. Examples 2, 3 provide alternate formats. ‘Where can I learn more?’ provides a link for another example.

  1. Conduct the environmental audit. Rate the current situation and identify areas that require change.
  2. Over the next week verify the information you collected on your environmental audit e.g. check lighting reflections on the whiteboard at different times during the day.
  3. Check which students have sensory sensitivity?
    • Previous teachers and parents can provide information about factors that impact particular students.
    • Students can provide information. One method of getting students to provide this information is photovoice (see note below).
  4. Create an action plan for addressing changes e.g. by the end of week 2 I will have created a class seating plan.
  5. Discuss with the principal changes that require additional resources.
  6. Monitor changes throughout the week e.g. did this change increase students’ learning behaviours?
  7. Environmental audits are useful activities to do at the beginning of each semester.

Note: Photovoice is a useful way for students to show you places they find uncomfortable/distracting. Using a digital device e.g. Ipad, phone the student takes pictures of these areas. The student then meets with the teacher to talk about the pictures. Asking the student about the pictures e.g. ‘how does this make you feel?’, ‘what do you think of when you look at this picture?’

Age group

Suitable for teachers working with the following age groups.

PreschoolYes
P-2Yes
3-6Yes
High schoolYes

Where can I learn more?

EnvironmentCurrent situationChanges required
Classroom layout: Structuring the classroom so there are clear pathways allows students to move freely around the classroom without risk of bumping into furniture or other students. Having clearly defined areas provides predictability for students.
Clear entry to the classroomSchool bags often in front of the door. Students group in front of the door.Create a clear area for bags to be stored.
Teach waiting at door procedure e.g. students wait at the door in two lines.
Students can move freely around the furnitureDesks are placed close together. No obvious pathways in the room.Reorganise desks to allow for clear pathways.
Remove unwanted furniture.
Areas of the room are clearly definedReading corner overlaps with resource area.Create a clear demarcation between areas e.g. use the back of the resource cupboard as a divider/ mark area with tape/ carpet squares.
Resources are clearly identified and are stored in an allocated areaNo set place for resources. Changes depending on space.
Resources overflowing containers.
Create a set area for resources.
Label the areas.
Place resources in a suitable size container. This issue can also be addressed by reducing the number of resources available at any one time. Store extra in a teacher area.
Seating arrangement: Having a clear seating arrangement provides predictability for students.
Students have a designated seat.Students can change their seat each day.Provide a clear seating arrangement e.g. class map.
Consideration given to students who are distracted by outside noise.Student currently sitting beside the classroom doorMove the student to a different area in the classroom
Consideration given to students who are distracted by visual input.Student sitting in front of resource trolley. Student sitting beside the project display board.Move the student or place a cover over the resource trolley. Reposition the student so there back is to the project display board.
Visual Information: Providing clear visual displays makes it easier for students to be able to identify important information.
Board/white board can be seen from every seat in the classroomDivider blocking visibility for children sitting on the left hand side of the classroom.Move the divider or the position of student chairs.
Key visual information is visible e.g. class rules, daily schedule.Daily schedule beside the project display. Class rules on the back wall and covered by art display.Create a border around the daily schedule to separate this from the project displays e.g. strip of tape.
Create a special position for the class rules e.g. rule board and only class rules displayed in that area. Place class rules where all students can view them.
Visual displays are unclutteredVisual displays are covering the windows, walls, and on string lines across the classroom.Identify an area for displays. Restrict to one area e.g. back wall. Limit the displays to current work e.g. change the display each week.
Noise levels: Reducing the impact of noise can increase students’ attention and concentration.
There is a clear understanding on acceptable noise levels in the class.Some students talking loudly in class.Noise regulator chart i.e. arrow indicates when noise is getting loud.
Quiet areas are available.No differentiation of space in the classroom.Create an area for quiet work. Indicate on the noise regulator chart this is a quiet area.
Awareness of sensory sensitivity.Not aware of any student having a noise sensitivity.Observe students’ behaviour to identify if noise is impacting on their ability to concentrate. Check with student/s. Provide adjustments for the student/s e.g. seat allocation, time in quiet area, use of ear plugs.
Lighting: Reducing the impact of lighting can increase students’ attention and concentration.
Lights are checked regularly.Flickering fluorescent lights.Submit a maintenance request
The use of artificial lights is monitored.Artificial lights are used all day.Check if there is sufficient natural light in the classroom. If so, restrict use of artificial light to necessary times.
The whiteboard is positioned to minimise light reflection.Sun shining on the board in the morning.Consider the position of the board. Use a curtain or screen to block reflection on the board.
Awareness of sensory sensitivity.Not aware of any student having a sensory sensitivity.Observe students’ behaviour to identify if lighting is impacting on their ability to concentrate. Check with student/s. Provide adjustments for the student/s e.g. seat allocation, wearing a cap to block direct light.

Examples

Provision/StrategyWell developedPartly developedNot yet developed
Appropriate seating
Independent work area
Calming area available
Visual information is clearly displayed
Minimum levels of background noise
Labelled resources
Colour coded environment/resources
Awareness about sensory sensitivity

 

YesNoAction plan
Appropriate seating
Independent work area
Calming area available
Visual information is clearly displayed
Minimum levels of background noise
Labelled resources
Colour coded environment/resources
Awareness about sensory sensitivity
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Last updated 24 September 2020