The Deck of Spaces is a set of card decks designed to bring greater awareness to the power that our physical environments have on the way students learn. EVERYTHING in our learning environments has the ability to create a stronger sense of belonging, inclusion, and better supports to address learner variabilities – or the environment can create barriers. Much of this impact runs beneath our consciousness. The Deck of Spaces brings greater awareness to the power of space as an influencer, to truly serve as "the 3rd teacher," as Loris Malguzzi of Reggio Emilia fame once said.
The Deck of Spaces was recently developed to support the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework, which originated out of Harvard University's Graduate School of Education nearly 25 years ago. UDL supports diverse learner needs, originating with a purpose to reinforce special education -- has since grown to advance general education. Throughout its existence, the UDL framework has never included space design as a key component of supporting diverse learner needs. Instead, it had concentrated on instructional methodology and assistive technologies. The Deck of Spaces: K12 2nd Edition is a major redesign, with entirely rewritten content and new graphic environment. The holistic update of content now engages ideas well beyond the UDL framework, including how space can support the inclusion of various racial and ethnic identities, trauma-sensitive learners, students struggling with stress and anxiety, and inclusion of non-binary gender identities and differing sexual orientations.
The design team for the Deck of Spaces includes educators, professional development coaches, education researchers, and design professionals across the country. The team is composed of diverse individuals to bring diverse perspectives about how spaces influence users of diverse lived experiences. The space design ideas in the deck are supported by research with the peer-reviewed sources cited in the back end of the deck.
With the Deck of Spaces, teachers, administrators, district and campus personnel, and design professionals can design spaces to mitigate barriers and improve students' sense of belonging and success.
Each idea card has a heading and descriptive text on one side and example application images on the opposite side. The decks are broken into four categories: Student Experiences, Educator Experiences, Paradigms, and Educator Vignettes. There's no one way to use the decks – they can be used by individuals or teams. They can be used in focus groups, brainstorming sessions, or as aids in classroom activities. The deck can be utilized in gaming formats to energize educational exercises; it considers effective learning environments and the various perceptions students and teachers bring to their learning experiences.
Deck of Spaces OverviewThe Deck of Spaces helps with the mastery of the complex UDL framework, making it easy and fun. Much of the fun is understanding the major impact users know they're making for end users.Lauren Pusateri
Deck of Spaces: K12 EditionBox cover artLauren Pusateri
Deck of Spaces overview, K12 Second EditionUsers can engage with the deck through the images, the text, or both - supporting multiple learning preferences.Lauren Pusateri
Educator Professional DevelopmentThe discovery process of new ways to think about space design is invigorating for many users.David Reid
Educator Professional DevelopmentFaculty from Hainan University in China were able to easily engage with the deck despite limited English language skills.David Reid
Playing "Schools Against Inhumanity"In this gamified application of the Deck of Spaces, users dive into deep conversations about why their chosen design strategy (the card they played) is a better strategy for the assigned challenge than their competitors' cards. It's a playful way to have deeply meaningful conversations about learning.David Reid
Engaging with ColleaguesCo-workers are able to have rich conversations about values and strategies to better serve their students and how to better collaborate as a team of educators.David Reid
Brainstorming Your Dream SpaceStudents find the card deck inspirational and they consistently explain new interpretations of the card ideas from the perspective of their own experiences and dreams.Kelly Dreyer
Brain Food for Design AssignmentsThe card deck can be used with class assignment relating to design, which incorporates geometry, scale drawing, budgeting, and more. When used as a kit-of-parts in a design assignment, the cards can be combined in endless variations.Kelly Dreyer
Supporting Client Connected ProjectsMultistudio often uses the Deck of Spaces as part of Client Connected Projects, to help students work with design professionals and obtaining Market Value Assets (MVAs) working toward Real World Learning goals.David Reid
Engage at Any LevelUsers from mid-elementary age up to adults can easily engage with the Deck of Spaces - it's user friendly and supports engagement from light-hearted, fun activities to deep culture-changing efforts across entire schools and districts.Lauren Pusateri
Design intent & point of view:
Our physical environments are filled with primes – ways in which the space around us nudges us to make subconscious decisions or makes us feel a certain way. The Deck of Spaces helps us be better aware of these primes so we can impact them through intentional design decisions. The Deck of Spaces originated to bring more awareness to how space can positively impact the 32 checkpoints of the UDL framework to improve teaching and learning in support of learner variability. Among the checkpoints are ideas such as optimizing individual choice and autonomy, minimizing threats and distractions, fostering collaboration and community, varying the methods for response and navigation, and optimizing access to tools and technologies. All these and more can be augmented by well-designed space. The Deck of Spaces idea cards illustrate specific ways to accomplish this.
UDL is inherently about access and inclusion. However, many themes associated with diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) in today's world of education aren't explicit in the original UDL language. Therefore, as the authors and designers of the Deck of Spaces re-imagined the K12 Second Edition, they foregrounded more explicit ideas and language to better spotlight opportunities that support DEIB with space design. These opportunities include how space can support inclusivity across racial and ethnic differences, how it can be more supportive to students with socio-emotional challenges, how it can mitigate stigmas associated with socio-economic disparities, and how it can be more intentional to mitigate barriers related to sexual identities and non-binary gender identities.
Example ideas from the deck that impact the student experience include concepts that offer choice and agency, rethinking the layouts of classrooms to avoid spatial hierarchies that harken back to colonialism, providing safe spaces for retreat and reflection, allowing students to make their own space within a space, allowing students to engage with any surface, providing Living Labs to support authentic learning, and affording transparency to enhance the school community.
Similarly for faculty, ideas include faculty collaboration studios (not to be confused with the faculty breakrooms that smell of burnt popcorn and lack professionalism) and learning prototype studios that afford teachers environments that dignify their profession. In addition, the deck offers the chance to assess the power dynamics within classrooms, to raise awareness about how the teacher's position can inhibit a sense of inclusion. Within the Paradigms category, ideas include engaging family members with hospitality, which has direct links to concerted cultivation outside the classroom and progressive learning growth. Other ideas include showcasing community successes, defeating the stigma of school, and thinking of the library as a kitchen rather than a grocery store to foster more creative and maker-based learning.
Multistudio was approached by members at CAST, the home organization supporting UDL, to consider developing space design guidelines supporting the UDL framework.
For the 25 years UDL has existed, there has never been criteria to address the highly impactful influences of space on the principles within UDL. The process for the first beta deck took months, exploring hundreds of examples of education spaces that offer benefits to support principles of UDL, and vice versa, taking each of the 32 checkpoints and testing ways space could positively impact each checkpoint. This collection of ideas was collected into a set of primary idea cards, each with a big idea heading and secondary descriptions offering further inspiration and applications. A long list of draft cards was created and shared via a digital MIRO Board with a consortium of collaborators across the country – education researchers, teachers, teaching coaches, designers, and students. Many new ideas emerged, existing concepts were re-written, and imagery was refined. Further literature reviews were done to validate and refine ideas with scientific evidence on learning impacts.
The team also scrutinized user interaction with the cards. How many cards were too many? How could the card design help users mentally process and organize a large number of ideas? How could the card design facilitate easy sorting, whether users prefer to process ideas based on the image side or the text side of each card? How could we balance an appropriate level of rich descriptions and citations with cards that can be quickly read and processed?
Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, iteration, and beta testing:
Along with collecting example learning spaces that support UDL and DEIB principles, the design team combed through dozens of research papers related to learning outcomes. Some research touched on space as a variable or influencer. Other research was extrapolated to imagine how space could be designed to elicit positive behaviors tied to the research; for example, how the benefits of concerted cultivation could potentially be enhanced by better engaging parents and family members in the management of their children's education.
The diverse composition of the design team lent a broad base of subject matter expertise to the team and differing points of view. One of the most challenging aspects of the design process was culling down the expansive collection of ideas from the team into a manageable-sized card deck.
Stakeholder interests: (audience, businesses, organizations, labor, manufacturing and distribution.)
The Deck of Spaces (available in editions for Early Childhood, K-12, and Higher Education) is incredibly versatile in its applications. We're continually discovering new ways users interact with the cards – a testament to the versatility of the Deck of Spaces.
The baseline application was envisioned to support design discussions with stakeholders involved in designing new and renovated learning spaces. The deck is a wonderful tool to bridge languages between educators, design professionals, facilities personnel, and administrators. See photo captions for a few example applications.
Other applications that users have shared include the use by classes in schools of education around the country, by professional development specialists, and by teachers themselves seeking inspiration for their own classroom hacks. At the collegiate level, the Higher Education edition has been used by campus planners, administrators, centers for faculty excellence, and departments focused on access services. Many large school districts have furnished multiple copies in their service center resource libraries, making them more available for teachers and staff across dozens of schools. Nearly every week, we hear of new applications.
How the project earns its keep in the world. What is its value? Social, educational, and economic impacts, whether it's paradigm-shifting, sustainable or if it creates an environmental, cultural or gladdening effect.
The Deck of Spaces brings increased awareness to challenges and opportunities in today's world of education. It informs users how space may be creating learning barriers for certain students, conscious or sub-conscious. By bringing greater awareness about the power of space design to non-designers (educators, facilities managers, school board members, administrators), the opportunity to influence design outcomes that provide positive impact to learner outcomes is much greater! And the ability to think about the influence of learning space on ALL learners, regardless of learner variabilities, is much more tuned in. Users of the deck are able to think more globally about the range of learners using their designed spaces – how their different lived experiences and learning disabilities may shape their perception of the environment much differently than those of the immediate design and instruction team.
The end result of the Deck of Spaces has been spaces more successfully designed to meet the needs of each and every user. Districts like San Francisco Unified have successfully integrated the cards into the design process of their new schools. The cards have been integrated into UDL teacher training around the country. The tool kit has been a catalyst in re-imagining schools and the future of education around the country. As diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) become more center-stage in districts across the country, the Deck of Spaces has been a fabulous tool to help create productive conversations on these topics so all students feel a sense of belonging and can be more successful in their studies.