Learning Environments and Inclusive Education

A collaboration with The MacKillop Institute investigating the relationship between inclusive education and school learning environments.


The overarching aim of the project is to explore the relationship between teachers’ attitudes towards inclusive education and physical learning spaces. Specifically, the study will investigate teachers’ affective, cognitive and behavioural aspects of attitudes within the realm of inclusive education that includes physical, social and curricular inclusion, and examine the relationship of these attitudes with the physical learning environments teachers work in.

Detailed project outline

  • Objectives
    • To investigate the relationship between teachers’ attitudes towards inclusive education and physical learning spaces.
    • To use evidence from the study to make continual improvements to teacher professional development and the design of school learning environments.
  • Outcomes

    The Australian education system has adopted an inclusive education philosophy for the education of students with special needs. Inclusive education is defined as “the education of all students in age appropriate regular classrooms, regardless of the degree or severity of a disability. It involves students accessing the regular curriculum; with the necessary support; and within a welcoming social atmosphere” (Mahat, 2018, p. 84). However, the complex nature of inclusive education, together with the re-emerging trend of learning space transformation, have posed multiple challenges for both educators and policy-makers to ensure the successfully delivery of effective education for all students regardless of ability.

    Existing studies have shown that teachers’ attitudes are vital to the success of inclusive education. While many scholars draw attention to the teachers’ attitudes within the realm of inclusive education, little research has been done to explore whether the attitudes teachers hold are correlated to the physical learning spaces they work in. The project aims to address this gap. This study will provide evidence of the correlation between physical learning spaces and attitudes towards inclusive education, contributing to a greater understanding of the role physical learning spaces play in inclusive education.

  • Impact

    The outcomes of this study will provide insights into the design practices of inclusive learning environments and the development of an integrated professional learning program on inclusive education for teachers. The project meets educational reform priorities of the Alice Springs Education Declaration by promoting “a culture of excellence in all learning environments by providing varied challenging and stimulating learning experiences and opportunities that enable all learners to explore and build on the individual abilities, interests and experiences” (Education Council, 2019, p. 5).

    When disseminated more widely, the outcomes of the study are not only relevant to educators and school leaders but also to policy-makers, to support the learning and outcomes of all our students.


Dr Marian Mahat, Senior Research Fellow, The University of Melbourne (Project Lead)

Ben Sacco, National Lead, Program Development & Implementation, The MacKillop Institute