Module 5: Creating and sustaining a learning environment for young PwVHPI during the mobility

“Creating and sustaining a learning environment for young People with Visual Hearing Physical Impairments (PwVHPI) during the mobility” is the fifth module developed for youth workers, educators, trainers and youth leaders. This module aims to increase the skills and competencies of youth workers who want to work with young PwVHPI and learn more about different types of learning environments and how to create and sustain a learning environment during mobility.

This module addresses and comprises in specific the following topics:

  • What is a learning environment?
    • Different types of learning environments (Learner-Centered, Knowledge-Centered, Assessment Centered).
  • How can we make a learning environment sustainable and inclusive?
    • Inclusivity practices to consider for your learning environment and the important difference between equity and equality in an inclusive environment.

By the end of this module, you will learn:

  • What a learning environment is and its classifications.
  • About the different kinds/types of learning environments.
  • How to identify and list inclusive practices and characteristics of inclusive learning environments.

1. What is a Learning Environment?

1.1 Definition of a Learning Environment

With the term learning environment, we define the diverse physical locations, contexts, and cultures in which learners learn. The definition also includes the culture of a school or class—its ethos and characteristics, encompassing how persons interact with and treat one another—as well as the ways in which facilitators may organize a learning environment setting to facilitate learning (Bates, 2020).

While learning environments vary from classroom, spaces and context, experts identify four specific classifications of learning environments. According to this classification, learning environments can be:

  • student or learner-centered,
  • knowledge-centered,
  • assessment-centered,
  • community- centered.

Graphic Source: PIXABAY

1.2 Different types of learning environments

Learner-Centered Environments

Α learner-centered learning environment focuses on the learners’ needs and the learning process is enriched by the culture, beliefs, attitudes, skills, and knowledge that they may bring to the learning environment. In a learner-centered environment, the teacher/ youth worker builds on the conceptual and cultural knowledge of each learner. During the mobility learners/participants are asked to express their views, they are actively involved in the discussion, where they bring most of the input and construct their meaning based on prior knowledge and experiences. The youth worker acts as a link between new learning and what learners already know (Ifenthaler, 2012).

Knowledge-Centered Environments

When we speak of knowledge-centered environments, we mostly refer to a formal education environment. Knowledge-centered environments focus more on assisting learners in acquitting information with deep understanding so that they can use it in new situations and contexts (Ifenthaler, 2012, pp. 929-931).

Assessment-Centered Environments

Τhe assessment procedure offers valuable information for both teachers/ facilitators and learners as it includes assessment measures in various formats. Results are collected in several ways, both in a formal and non-formal education context. The two main types of assessment procedures are formative and summative:

  • An environment of formative assessment is designed to give continuous feedback about predispositions and performances to both learners and instructors (Ifenthaler, 2012, pp.929 -931).
  • A summative assessment is designed to focus on measuring the results of learning and includes regular gathering of data that provide quality control and serve the important function of reviewing achieved qualifications /credentials (IRIS, 2020).

Community-centered learning environment

Community-centered learning environments are based on values or norms that promote lifelong learning education. In this environment, learners are encouraged to ask questions, learn from each other and are confident to say that they don’t know something, instead being afraid to get caught not knowing something (Iris, 2020). Community-centered learning environments’encompass a truly collaborative learning environment based on learners needs and focus on each learner ability to develop competence and confidence.

During mobility, the learning environment resembles a lot the community-learning environment, as they share common characteristics, such as: collaborative learning, the alignment of the learners and facilitators’ expectations, and the sessions are based on participants’ needs.

2. Inclusive learning environment during a mobility

What is an inclusive learning environment?

An inclusive learning environment is the space where participants feel welcomed, engaged, and safe and everyone has an equal opportunity to participate in the learning process (Holeton, 2020). Inclusiveness is one of the main pillars of education: no education system can be considered prosperous without being inclusive. This is why efforts need to be made to bring education as close to the idea of inclusiveness as possible, thriving to understand cultural and social differences without flattening them in homogeneous turbulence.

Graphic Source: PIXABAY

Inclusion process encompasses three main aspects:

Physiological Inclusion

When organizing a learning mobility choosing the right room with the proper infrastructure is an essential part for achieving an inclusive learning environment. Characteristics such as lighting, acoustics, temperature, air quality and accessibility—can make a space feel more or less comfortable/welcoming for people. Another very important aspect to have in mind when organizing a learning mobility is Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs. People cannot learn effectively if they’re too hungry, thirsty, hot/cold, or tired, so the learning environment should first secure that learners’ physiological needs for food, water, comfort, rest, accessibility and mobility needs are met (Holeton, 2020).

Cognitive Inclusion

When organizing an inclusive mobility, you need to ensure that the designed activities meet the three main principles of the Universal Design for Learning guidelines, to allow participants/learners to express, communicate and learn with various means and methods. As a facilitator you should try to include:

  • Multiple means of representation: provide alternatives and various media for showing visual or auditory information, visual displays, and equipment for lecture and notes capture; provide hardware and software allowing information sharing using multiple media.
  • Multiple means of expression: provide access to assistive technologies; provide spaces with access to different types of tools for creating and sharing content.
  • Multiple means of engagement: provide diverse and flexible spaces for learning, collaboration, and teamwork with plenty of room for movement and interaction among participants (Holeton, 2020).

Cultural Inclusion

The last but definitely not least aspect of inclusion in a learning environment is the cultural inclusion aspect. According to Barker et al (2016):

“A culturally inclusive classroom is one where students and staff alike recognize, appreciate and capitalize on diversity so as to enrich the overall learning experience. Fostering a culturally inclusive learning environment encourages all individuals – regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, religious affiliation, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation or political beliefs – to develop personal contacts and effective intercultural skills.”(Barker et al, 2016 p.1)

Equality vs Equity in an inclusive perspective

When implementing a learning mobility as a facilitator, you probably try your best to treat all the young people of your group equally. However, have you ever wondered if you treat them equitably? In an inclusive learning environment, you need to be aware of the working methods you select throughout the duration of your mobility and try to make them as equitable as you can.

Graphic Source: PIXABAY

In every activity you need to understand the various needs of your diverse group and adapt the methods and activities, accordingly. For example, you use the circle method where you bring all your young people together for a discussion, group reflection or debriefing, you are practicing equality (because all the young people are in one place and in theory have the same chances to participate) but that does not necessarily guarantee equity. In every group, there are always one or two young persons, who have more confidence than the other and have no trouble speaking out, who come up with the right answers right away, or who are witty and have plenty of jokes/comments to share with the group during a discussion (Schroeder, 2014, pp. 106-107). On the other hand, there are other participants who seldom say anything and prefer to listen and blend in the background. These youngsters may lack self-confidence or language skills. Another possibility could be that they have learning disabilities which make it difficult for them to process information as fast as others do. They can even be dyslexic or illiterate. It is your responsibility as a facilitator to be aware of it. But how can you practice equity?

Patience is virtue: As a facilitator, after asking a question, wait 5-10 seconds before giving the floor to participants. In this way, you give some time to all of them to process the question and think up a response. As a facilitator, do your best to give all members of the group the time and space they need to participate fully.

Mix it up and make it inclusive: Remember that it is very important to diversify your working methods to be more inclusive. Usually, even if it is not intentional, facilitators taking their first steps in the mobility field, tend to choose more traditional or “academic” ways of learning (like reading, writing, group discussions, etc.). Have always in mind, though, that different people learn and express in different ways. Some learn best through visual representation, some through figures, some express best when using their body, some learn best through games and fun activities (Schroeder, 2014,p.106). To work as equitably as possible, try to use a range of methods that respond to a range of learning styles.

For more information on inclusive practices during a mobility and for diverse needs of young People with Visual, Hearing and Physical Impairments (young PwVHPI) check the DARE Practical Guide of Inclusion

Activity 5.1

Module Title Module 5: Creating and sustaining a learning environment for young PwVHPI during the mobility
Activity Title Are you a “have” or “have not”? Are you “in” or “out”?
Activity Code A5.1
Duration of the Activity (in minutes 20-25 minutes
Type of resource Activity Sheet
Aim of activity The aim of this activity is to support facilitators that are not very experienced in the field of inclusion, to think deeper and get familiarized with the concept of social exclusion. This short exercise deals how our financial situation, our place in society, the quality of our personal relationships (“have or have not”), our possibilities to participate and our future perspectives are just as important to our sense of well-being and belonging (“Am I in or am I out?”).
Materials Required for Activity Note taking materials, pen or pencil.

Optional: a digital device such as computer, laptop, tablet that will help you researching about the conditions of youngsters in your area

Step-by-step instructions To better understand what is meant by “social exclusion”, try this short exercise.

Step 1: Consider the young people you work with. Think about how they relate to other young people in their school, in their community or in their country as a whole.

Step 2: Take a piece of paper and take notes if this helps you concentrate or keep track of your thoughts.

Would you say they have equal or fair access to things like:

  • Decent housing?
  • Healthy food every day?
  • Regular medical and dental care?
  • Good schools with caring teachers?
  • Pocket money?
  • Affordable free time activities?

Step 3: What about other factors? Would you say that they:

  • Have a loving and supportive family?
  • Have supportive friendships?
  • Live in a community where their language, religion and culture are respected?
  • Live in a community where they are safe from harm and violence?
  • Have a voice on social and political matters and are being heard?
  • Have, in general, an interesting life and reason to feel positive about their future?

If you answered “yes” to most of the questions above, your young people enjoy a certain amount of well-being. In these categories, they could be considered as the “haves” in society or as those who are “in” (included). If your answers were mostly “no”, then, to some extent, your young people may be “out” or “excluded” from some aspects of a healthy life. In the context of the questions above, they could be considered as the “have-nots” of society.

This activity was taken from Inclusion A- Z: A compass to international Inclusion projects

Activity 5.2

Module Title Module 5: Creating and sustaining a learning environment for young PwVHPI during the mobility
Activity Title The 3Cs test of designing an activity
Activity Code A5.2
Duration of the Activity (in minutes 30-40 minutes
Type of resource Activity Sheet
Aim of activity This activity will introduce to the facilitators the 3Cs (Challenge, Connection, Capacity) principle when designing or implementing activities in an international inclusion project and the importance of adaptation when we implement an inclusive activity.
Materials Required for Activity Note taking materials, pen or pencil, a digital device such as computer, laptop, tablet that will help you researching about the conditions of youngsters in your area.
Step-by-step instructions In order for people to learn, you should think of the 3 Cs: Challenge, Connection, Capacity, and always adapt a method to your groups’ needs.

Step 1: Choose a youth exchange activity from the Salto Youth Toolbox and imagine that you are going to use it to break the ice in a youth exchange with a mixed ability group meaning that you will have young people with and without disabilities.

Step 2: Now take this piece of paper and check if your chosen activity fulfils the first C of the 3Cs principle.

  • Is the chosen activity challenging enough for your group?

Challenging in these terms, means that an activity should be challenging for young people, it should entice them to try it and jump on board expanding their borders. The challenge, however, should not look insurmountable as this makes them drop out or, if they should fail, causes frustration and make them think twice before joining in such a project again. On the other hand, the challenge should be high enough so as not to be boring for the young people or take all sense of achievement – “yes we did it” – out of it. Do you have any remarks on how you can adapt the activity to make it challenging enough for your group? Write them down!

Step 3: Now continue with the next C, Connection.

  • Does the chosen activity make young people feel connected to it?

For an activity to be successful, young people should feel connected to it. To achieve this, you should adapt the activity to make it compatible to the world the young people live in. You should be careful so as not to involve young people in activities whose form or content is going to alienate them from the start, like introducing a game requiring very selfish/competitive behavior from a group of highly peer-orientated young people. Young people may have real life situations that you have little or no experience of and consequently they may become uninterested or frustrated if you work to an agenda that is not connected or is irrelevant to their needs.

Do you have any remarks on how you can make the activity more relatable to your group? Write them down!

Step 4: Next continue with the final C, the Capacity.

  • Does your activity correspond to the capacities of the group?

It is very important as a facilitator to know more or less the capacities and skills of the young people and adapt the activity accordingly to obtain a sequence of little achievements and successes. Bear in mind, that a method or activity only works if it is tailored /adapted to the target group (being aware of the different abilities), but also to what you as a facilitator* feel comfortable with while you are working.

An example of adaptation of an activity is the following:

Alphabetical chairs

This icebreaker is a funny way for the participants to get to know each other’s names and break the ice. All participants, stand on a line of chairs and then they have to arrange themselves in alphabetical order according to their first name without touching the floor and without falling. So, what happens in case you have people with a disability in the group? You adapt the game of course! instead of standing on chairs you can ask participants to hold a rope, and they need to sort themselves without ever letting go completely of the rope (always one contact point).

Do you have any remarks on how you can adapt the activity to the capacities of your group? Write them down!

Step 5: recheck!

You can overview now your activity and check how and if it is changed from the original one. You can also try it again by varying the group and think for example how it would change if you had a person in the group that did not speak the language of a person with visual / hearing disabilities. How would you adapt the activity in this case to make it inclusive?

Finally, remember that when you manage to address the 3Cs in your project and keep them in balance, the first step towards a successful mobility has been set!

This activity was adapted from the manual from No Barriers No borders

Resource 5.1

Module Title: Module 5: Creating and sustaining a learning environment for young PwVHPI during the mobility
Title of Resource: T-Kit on Social Inclusion
Resource Code: R5.1
Introduction to the resource: This Training Kit is the inclusion publication of the Partnership between the European Commission and the Council of Europe on youth worker training – addressing different issues of inclusion in youth work
What will you get from using this resource? The manual examines the possibilities to use non-formal education as a tool for inclusion in the practice of inclusive youth work particular approaches (such as peer education etc.) and explores the following subjects/content:

  • the future of Europe for young people
  • it defines the target group of social inclusion
  • it gives some key indicators on how to reach the target group
  • the context of young people is analysed
Link to resource: T-Kit on Social Inclusion

Resource 5.2

Module Title: Module 5: Creating and sustaining a learning environment for young PwVHPI during the mobility
Title of Resource: Going International: Opportunities for all!
Resource Code: R5.2
Introduction to the resource: A booklet with practical inclusion methods and advice for preparing, implementing and following-up on international projects with young people with fewer opportunities.
What will you get from using this resource? The overall aim of this booklet is to document examples of good practice and specific working methods that will enable the reader to increase the participation of young people with fewer opportunities in, and reduce their exclusion from, international individual or group experiences. The booklet is complimentary to the T-Kit on Social Inclusion in the sense that it is more ‘ready to use’ and the Commission’s Inspirational Booklet on Inclusion, which aims to give examples and motivation, this Booklet will focus more on concrete situations that can occur during the three critical stages, PLAN, DO,

REVIEW, of an international activity

Link to resource: Going International: Opportunities for all!

Resource 5.3

Module Title: Module 5: Creating and sustaining a learning environment for young PwVHPI during the mobility
Title of Resource: Universal Design for Learning Guidelines
Resource Code: R5.3
Introduction to the resource: The UDL Guidelines are a tool used in the implementation of Universal Design for Learning, a framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn.
What will you get from using this resource? The UDL Guidelines can be used by educators, curriculum developers, researchers, parents, and anyone else who wants to implement the UDL framework in a learning environment. These guidelines offer a set of concrete suggestions that can be applied to any discipline or domain to ensure that all learners can access and participate in meaningful, challenging learning opportunities.
Link to resource: Universal Design for Learning Guidelines

Resource 5.4

Module Title: Module 5: Creating and sustaining a learning environment for young PwVHPI during the mobility
Title of Resource: Value the Difference Resource Pack
Resource Code: R5.4
Introduction to the resource: This pack is designed to explore the topic of cultural diversity and many of the related and complex issues people in Europe face today. It won’t give you all the answers, but will offer an opportunity for you to use your own knowledge and experiences, and those of the people around you, to explore these issues in more detail and how they have an impact on your life, community and society
What will you get from using this resource? The chapters in this resource pack are divided into two sections:

  • Part 1 includes an introduction to the key themes of each topic, interesting statistics, quotes and case studies to whet your appetite, set the context and encourage further exploration.
  • Part 2 provides practical examples of how to approach these subjects and engage young people in discussions around the key themes
Link to resource: Value the Difference Resource Pack

Resource 5.5

Module Title: Module 5: Creating and sustaining a learning environment for young PwVHPI during the mobility
Title of Resource: Disability Inclusion Toolkit Enabling Inclusive Youth Work
Resource Code: R5.5
Introduction to the resource: This toolkit explores the concept of disability inclusion, in inclusive youth work in Ireland. Inclusion happens where people believe in it and where they really want it to happen. Successful inclusion exists when everyone has a positive can-do attitude and when people –staff, volunteers, young people and the community truly work together to ensure that everyone is respected, valued and included. Access is more than physical in nature. It is an approach, a mindset that requires honest self assessment and often a degree of personal and organisational challenge.
What will you get from using this resource? Developing Inclusive Youth work requires no extra special sets of skills, but in the case of working with children and young people who are deaf this would require learning Sign Language. In fact there’s nothing ‘special’ going on at all. Inclusion is just good practice. it is a ongoing process and not an end in itself. The first step is deciding to be proactive and reach out to those young people that do not “show up.” using the Inclusion Toolkit will help youth groups explore some of the issues and actions they need to take
Link to resource: Disability Inclusion Toolkit Enabling Inclusive Youth Work

For finding out the definition of certain terms with which you may not be familiarised, please read the DARE Practical Guide for Inclusion, the first output DARE project partners developed.


Bransford, J. D., Vye, N. J., & Bateman, H. (2002). Creating high-quality learning environments: Guidelines from research on how people learn. In P. A. Graham & N. G. Stacey (Eds.), The knowledge economy and post secondary education: Report of a workshop (pp. 159–197).

Ifenthaler, D. (2012). Design of Learning Environments. Encyclopedia Of The Sciences Of Learning, pp. 929-931.

Schroeder, K. (2014). Inclusion A- Z: A compass to international Inclusion projects [online] Accessed 13 July 2020.

Barker, M., Frederik’s, E., & Farrelly, B. (2016). Creating a Culturally Inclusive Classroom Environment. In GIHE Good Practice Resource Booklet on Designing Culturally Inclusive Learning and Teaching Environments , pp. 1-3 [online] Assessed 5 November 2020.


Bates, A. (2020). What is a learning environment? [online] Accessed 25 July 2020.

Holeton, R. (2020). Toward Inclusive Learning Spaces: Physiological, Cognitive, and Cultural Inclusion and the Learning Space Rating System. [online] Accessed 25 July 2020.

IRIS, (2020) How People Learn: Presenting the Learning Theory and Inquiry Cycle on Which the IRIS Modules Are Built [online] Accessed 15 July 2020.

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