Approach to Modeling Inclusive Environment in Educational Organization



The article focuses on the problem of modeling inclusive educational environment as a complex system object in which the system-forming relation is the connection between support and active participation of all participants of the educational environment, taking into account the diversity of educational needs. The empirical research data presented in the article illustrate the theoretical provisions that special educational conditions as support measures for students with disabilities can become the basis for their active participation in the educational process, provided that a subjective request for support is formed based on the reflection of the students’ own interests and difficulties. The sample included 8 institutions of secondary vocational education (N=1811 students, 17,3% of them with a status of disability or SEN). Throughout the sample, forms of work organized in a vocational educational organization (VEO) and support options were significantly less demanded by students (p<0.05) as compared to the opportunities provided. The level of difficulties recognition in the students varied between “never”/”rarely” and “rarely”/”sometimes”. The found paradoxical statistically significant (p<0.01) positive relationship (from weak to moderate) between the experienced level of support and the student’s desire to leave VEO is discussed. Strategies for modeling the inclusive educational environment are considered, and prospects for studying its technological support are outlined.

General Information

Keywords: inclusive educational environment, systemic approach, modeling, system-forming factor, participation, support, agency, special educational needs

Journal rubric: Educational Psychology

Article type: scientific article


Funding. The study was carried out within the framework of the state task of the Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation dated 04/08/2022 No. 073-00110-22-02 “Scientific and methodological support for the development of an inclusive educational environment in the system of general and vocational education”.

Acknowledgements. The authors are grateful to L.M. Prokopyeva for her help in collecting data for the study and in conducting statistical analysis.

Received: 26.06.2022


For citation: Alekhina S.V., Samsonova E.V., Shemanov A.Yu. Approach to Modeling Inclusive Environment in Educational Organization. Psikhologicheskaya nauka i obrazovanie = Psychological Science and Education, 2022. Vol. 27, no. 5, pp. 69–84. DOI: 10.17759/pse.2022270506.

Full text


The education system of the Russian Federation is striving for inclusiveness, having legislated this right and providing it with strategic documents, namely with interdepartmental comprehensive plans for the development of inclusive education until 2030. One of the objectives of these documents is to develop a basic model of an inclusive educational organization, considering the specifics of all levels of education [11; 12; 13]. At the same time, the model should become the basis for discussing the characteristics of an inclusive environment with all stakeholders, as well as for designing a real environment and building a system for its dynamic assessment and measurement. From our point of view, the solution of the problem of modeling an inclusive educational environment (IEE) is faced with inconsistency, complexity, and the systemic nature of the object itself.

The purpose of this article is to define an approach for theoretical understanding of the concept of IEE and building a basic model of IEE at the level of an educational organization (EO), as well as to illustrate the main characteristics of this approach based on empirical research.

As part of the conceptual and theoretical stage of modeling [20], we analyzed the papers devoted to the study of IEE. This analysis made it possible to conditionally combine them into two divergent approaches.

Within the framework of the first of them, the attention of scientists is mostly drawn to the component composition of the environment [3; 4; 32; 33; 35]. At the same time, the educational environment is considered rather as a set of components that characterize different aspects of the inclusiveness of the environment, which can be assessed by factor analysis [32]. So, when choosing several criteria of inclusiveness (accessibility, variability, tolerance, etc.) and a number of components of the environment (subject, software-technological, social, etc.), its inclusiveness will be determined through the assessment of each component for each criterion separately and summation the results obtained. The question of on what basis the criteria for inclusiveness are chosen is decided in advance and acts as a prerequisite for the analysis of the environment. With this approach to the definition of the inclusiveness of the educational environment, the whole of it appears as a simple sum of its parts, where the quality that unites it is introduced by the external reflection of the researcher and is not considered as a new qualitative state generated by relationships within the very set of elements of the educational environment [33].

In this case, the actor who is “placed” in it, the teacher or student, also turns out to be an agent external to the environment, who can more or less successfully use the conditions given to him. A similar type of functioning of the components of the environment of the agents of educational activity, in which these components are set as only external conditions for the activities of the actors, V.A. Yasvin suggests calling it an educational space, not an educational environment [26, p. 33—34].

Within the framework of the second methodological approach to the definition of the concept of the educational environment, the emphasis is on whether the elements of the environment form a whole system. The principle of system consistency is clearly formulated in the work of A.V. Petrovsky and M.G. Yaroshevsky: “System consistency is an explanatory principle of scientific knowledge, requiring the study of phenomena in their dependence on the internally connected whole that they form, acquiring new properties inherent in this whole ... [16, p. 350]” (quoted from: [7, p. 6]).

The turn to the systemic methodology of the analysis of IEE is because the main methodological paradigm of modern Russian federal state educational standards is the systemic-activity approach to teaching, which has become the dominant of Russian pedagogy since 1985. This was an attempt to explicitly combine the principle of system consistency, which was developed in the studies of the classics of our domestic psychology (such as B.G. Ananiev, B.F. Lomov, M.G. Yaroshevsky, A.V. Petrovsky and others), and the activity approach (which has always been implicitly systemic), developed by L.S. Vygotsky, L.V. Zankov, D.B. Elkonin, V.V. Davydov and many others. But, accepting the principle of system consistency as explicit, it should also be recognized that some relationships and connections between elements in the system as an interconnected whole should be system-forming [19].

What, within the framework of the second approach, can be considered a backbone component for an inclusive educational environment?

The basic documents on inclusive education state that “the ultimate goal of inclusive education is that each individual can have an effective participation in society and develop their potential” [18, p. 6], which implies that both in international documents on inclusive education and in studies on this topic, high importance is attached to the participation of students in IEE and their involvement in common activities (see also [9; 25; 29; 30; 31; 35; 36; 37; 38; 39]). The importance of participation in the modern world is also evidenced by the degree of generalization of this concept in relation to the understanding of the current cultural situation, which the American philosopher Henry Jenkins describes as a culture of participation [6].

We assume that the system-forming quality for an inclusive educational environment is the active inclusion in the educational process of all its participants (teachers, special educators, students with special educational needs, their normatively developing peers, parents) as agents of their activity who are able to change and rebuild the environment, developing themselves and transforming the totality of external conditions in the environment into their actual capabilities, taking into account the diversity of needs.

With such an understanding of the systemic property of an inclusive educational environment, in our opinion, the concept of the environment as providing opportunities (affordance, according to J.J. Gibson) for the activity of the subject, proposed by V.A. Yasvin [26, p. 32]. He considers as its systemic property the creation in the educational environment of the possibilities for the implementation by each student of his agentic position. In this case, the environment acts not without regard to the actor, but in relation to her/him, it acts as a whole system that includes the agent acting in it, and the environment is defined as providing to the actor with the affordances to work in it. Thus, the characteristics of the environment are transformed from external conditions into directions of active, conscious participation in its transformation in the course of the agent’s realization of her/himself, her/his intentions and goals, together with other acting actors of education [26].

For the principle of active participation as a system-forming principle of creating an inclusive educational environment to become a real basis for its modeling, the next step is to conceptualize and operationalize this principle.

We consider the conceptualization of the principle of participation based on the cultural-historical concept of L.S. Vygotsky. According to this concept, the child’s cultural development occurs in the process of assimilation of historically developed forms and methods of activity. It means the result of the action of the environment is largely determined by the degree to which a person comprehends this environment, the meaning in which it acts for him, which leads to the birth of a person as a social individual, i.e. to human socialization. The process of comprehension and rethinking of the surrounding world by a person requires certain means, the main of which is L.S. Vygotsky considers communication, since it is it that causes a person to need to use various signs (linguistic, graphic, mathematical, artistic, etc.), which ensure the formation of higher mental functions in a person, contributing to the emergence of new ways of thinking, mastering cultural means of behavior. In this sense, the educational environment acts as a system of cultural signs, which for the students should appear as a means of controlling their mental functions and building relationships with the world, with people around them, with themselves [5]. This happens if the organization of the educational environment maintains the position of active participation in the educational activities of students together with teachers and other actors of the environment, in which these actors consciously use the available resources [31].

Support becomes especially important to ensure the participation of students with disabilities, since, due to the limited resources available to them in the surrounding cash environment, the degree of their independent participation is reduced. The principle of active participation of students with disabilities in IEE is widely discussed in the works of many domestic researchers [3; 10; 15; 16; 24; 25]. At the same time, the authors rightly point out the problem of a formal attitude to the construction of an inclusive environment as a system of conditions for students with disabilities who find themselves passive in it, since they are “placed” in the conditions prepared for them, without taking part in their creation, but being only consumers of these conditions [3; 25]. Sharing this position, we believe that participation in this case should be understood primarily as the activity of students in building their individual educational route, independently choosing their extracurricular activities, realizing their interests and difficulties, and requesting the necessary types of support.

In the preface to the book by D.A. Leontiev and co-authors S.V. Alekhina writes: “At the heart of the inclusive practice of education is the principle of support, which requires the organization of psychological support for both students with disabilities and all those who work with them. Of all the possible ways of solving this problem, the most effective are those in which the student’s personal potential and his internal coping resources are actualized” [1, p. 4].

Thus, the role of the system-forming relation of the IEE is the connection of support and participation, which turns environmental conditions into affordances for the educational activities of its actors.

The operationalization of the IEE model as a research task can go in several directions. One of them is the inclusion of actors of the environment, focused on its change, in the study of the environment itself together with researchers. This type of research is called participatory [24; 28]. The Institute of Problems of Inclusive Education (IPIE) MSUPE conducted a similar study as part of testing the methodology for self-assessment of the inclusiveness of the school environment of an educational organization to develop it [2]. Another direction of operationalization of the matter of modeling can be the analysis of the correlation between support and participation of students in the educational process. To concretize this correlation, we use data from another study of the IPIE MSUPU, some of the results of which are given below.

Methods and Sample of the Empiric Study

The study was conducted by the Institute of Problems of Inclusive Education of Moscow State University of Psychology and Education in eight institutions of secondary vocational education (SVE) in the Pskov region and the Krasnoyarsk Territory. Representatives of the administration, teachers and students of educational institutions of secondary vocational education participated in the study. For this work, the answers to the online questionnaire for students were selected. The sample consisted of 1811 students, of which 17.3% have a status of disability. Some of the results are shown on the example of two vocational organizations. We reviewed research data from a college from the Pskov region (189 students, of which 11.1% are students with disabilities) and a technical school from the Krasnoyarsk Territory (188 students, of which 49.5% are with disabilities), which differ significantly from each other in the profile of education and the number of students with disabilities (there is a statistically significant difference in the number of students with disabilities according to the Fisher angular test, p<0.01).

The questionnaire for SVE students consists of 20 closed questions. The Likert scale was used in the answers to some questions (explanations are given in the description of the results). For analysis, we chose those questions that allow us to correlate the support conditions created in SVE organizations with the degree of participation and demand for these conditions by students. The questions concerned interests, difficulties, forms of activity offered by the organization and participation of students in them, the possibility of contacting the staff of professional educational organizations for support and help, and real requests from students, and one of the questions was about the desire to change the educational organization.

The processing of the obtained quantitative data was carried out using the Excel program on a comparative analysis of questionnaire forms. When working with the data, the following were used: grouping, average values, frequency distribution, correlation analysis (using of the Spearman correlation coefficient ρ), comparative analysis: a comparison of a college and a technical school in terms of the number of students with disabilities was carried out using the Fisher angular criterion; comparison between groups of respondents on relevant questions, as well as within the same group between answers to the question of the possibility of participation and actual participation was carried out using non-parametric Mann-Whitney and Wilcoxon tests.

Results and Discussion

The data presented in Table 1 show that when certain conditions are created in an organization aimed at supporting their initiative and activity, they are far from being fully demanded by students, i.e. do not become real opportunities for them, as agents of the educational process, to exercise their activity and participation (Table 1).

The questions proposed in the questionnaire made it possible to identify, using the examples of VEO (a college from the Pskov region and a technical school from the Krasnoyarsk Territory), possible factors that may influence the participation of students (Tables 2, 3).

A comparison of tables 2 and 3 shows that students show a higher degree of participation in those areas of the activity that are more interesting to them. College students seem to be more interested in individual and group forms of learning activities (judging by the relatively higher demand for individual projects — 28% of 69.3% (Table 3), as well as a more pronounced interest in forms of work in small groups (Table 2)), and the students of the technical school are more interested in social work and activities related to active communication (holidays, sports, volunteering) (Table 3). The areas of interest of SVE students are also indicated by the higher figures of their participation in various forms of work in comparison with the perceived opportunities for participation (Table 3). It can be seen from these data that the lowest participation opportunity to actual participation ratios, indicative of greater interest in participation, in the case of the college are for individual projects and participation in work teams (opportunity to actual participation ratios of less than 3 and 4, respectively), which, apparently, is more related to educational activity, and in the case of a technical school is more related to social work and the sphere of communication (the ratio of opportunities to real participation is less than 3).

Thus, it can be noted that in the organization of various forms of participation, it is necessary to correlate them with the interests of students. This requires the involvement of students in the planning of their educational trajectory, which includes activities to realize their interests and difficulties, as well as ways to implement and overcome them. However, the proportion of students participating in such planning, both in the entire sample (13.8%) (Table 1), and in college (11.1%) and technical school (17.6%) (Table 3), is small.

Difficulties proposed for assessing their presence in VEO on a scale of their manifestation (the Likert scale was used: never — 1, rarely — 2, sometimes — 3, often — 4), are noted by students in the meaning from “never” to “rarely” and “sometimes”. Moreover, if learning difficulties in VEO ranged on average in the range from “rarely” to “sometimes”, then communication difficulties ranged from “never” to “rarely” (Table 4).

Perhaps these difficulties are not significant for students, or they do not want to admit them in their answers. If the difficulties listed for evaluation are not relevant for students, then the wording of the difficulties themselves needs joint reflection with students. At the same time, if difficulties are not reflected or recognized by students, then a request for support is not formed (formulating a request would mean recognizing the difficulty in front of oneself and peers). This is shown by the data in Table 5, obtained for the entire sample, from which it is clear that students have the opportunity to seek support from various specialists, but in reality, this is done by a relatively small proportion of them.

At the same time, the frequency of requests for advice and assistance to teachers, the class teacher and masters of industrial training far exceeds the frequency of requests to support specialists (psychologist, social educator, teaching or technical assistant, educator).

Analysis of the data for the two selected VEO shows that the frequency of requests for help from teachers was rather higher (p = 0.062) in the college (42.9%) than in the technical school (33.5%), and in the technical school it was significantly higher ( p<0.01) the rate of referral to a social educator (32.4%) and educator (28.2%) than in college (19% and 16.9%, respectively), which confirms our assumption that the difference may be associated with the great interest of college students in activities related to the educational process (for example, in individual projects: college — 28.0%, technical school — 17.6%, p<0.05), and in technical school it is associated with great interest in social work (volunteer movement: college — 16.9%, technical school — 25.5%, p<0.05) and activities involving communication — festive, sports and other events (college: 15.9% and 16.4 %, technical school: 27.1%, p<0.01 and 26.6%, p<0.05, respectively).

At the same time, the degree of recognition of learning difficulties in the forms of learning activity was also higher in college (when studying some disciplines, speaking at the blackboard, writing test papers, interacting with teachers, p<0.05), while in the technical school, apparently, difficulties in social communication were more pronounced, judging by a significantly higher (p<0.01) than in college level of seeking help from social educators and educators/caregivers and greater difficulties in communicating with students from migrant families (p<0.05).

It should be noted that in both VEOs there is a significant moderate negative relationship (correlation) between the difficulties of students and the support of teachers. The relationship of support and difficulties in studying several disciplines, preparing homework, passing industrial training and interacting with teachers in college is moderately negative (0.3<ρ<0.5), in other cases it is slightly negative (ρ<0.3). At the technical school, there was a moderate negative relationship between difficulties in interacting with teachers and support for teachers. The correlation between these indicators in technical school and in college shows that the less support, the greater the difficulties. In particular, there was a moderate negative relationship between difficulties in communicating with teachers and students’ perception of support in college (ρ=-0.460, p<0.01) or technical school (ρ=-0.351, p<0.01). Similar data from studies by other authors show that difficulties in communicating with teachers are one of the barriers to the formation of a sense of inclusion in students [37].

In both VEOs, a statistically significant positive relationship (correlation) was also found between the provision of support and the desire of students to change organizations (ρ=0.482, p<0.01, college; ρ=0.264, p<0.01, technical school), which looks like a paradox: the greater the support, the greater the desire to change the place of study. Moreover, the positive relationship between the provision of support and the desire to change the place of study is moderate in college though weak in technical school. This paradox may turn out to be illusory given the findings of the previous analysis, which argue in favor of a lack of association between support and interests or recognized and perceived difficulties of students. If we assume that support is provided either not at the students’ own request, or in a volume insufficient to overcome difficulties, or in the absence of motivation to study and overcome difficulties, which are often not recognized by students, then the desire to change the place of study may be caused not the presence of support, but the lack of its connection with interests and needs. In this case, support will simply be an external statement for the student of his difficulties, which, in the absence of his own request, may prompt him to such an unconstructive strategy for getting out of this situation as a desire to leave.

Table 1

Relation between the Forms of Work Organized in VEO for Student Participation
and the Actual Participation of Students in These Forms

Indicate in which forms of work you have the opportunity to participate and in which you are already participating

Opportunity to participate (OP), %

Already participating (AP), %


in individual projects




in planning (individualization) of their educational trajectory




in volunteer movement




in work teams




in student council




in managing council




in design of the object-spatial environment




in circles of additional education




in the work of the admissions committee




in holding events for peers of their own and other institutions




in celebrations and concerts




in sport events




in career guidance events




in professional skill competitions, Abilympics, WorldSkills




in organization of new circles and sport sections




in Programs “Vocational training without borders”




in socially significant projects




in presenting interesting information about VEO on their pages in social networks




Note: All differences between opportunities to participate and actual participation were statistically significant using the Mann—Whitney and Wilcoxon tests (p<0.01).

Table 2

Comparison of the Interest of College and Technical School Students
in Pedagogical Technologies

Indicate which pedagogical technologies arouse your interest
in the classroom and in extracurricular activities

College, %

Technical school, %

Project work



Distant learning






Individual tasks



Performing tasks in small groups



Doing tasks in pairs



Research work



Professional samples



Note: An asterisk indicates statistically significant differences between college and technical school on the relevant question at p<0.01; two asterisks — at p<0.02 according to the Mann—Whitney and Wilcoxon criteria.

Table 3

Opportunity to Participate in Various Forms of Work and the Real Demand
for these Forms in two VEOs

Indicate in which forms of work you have the opportunity to participate and in which you are already participating



Technical school

Opportunity to participate (OP), %

Already partici-pating (AP), %


Opportu-nity to partici-pate (OP), %

Already participa-ting (AP), %


in individual projects







in planning (individualization) of their educational trajectory







in volunteer movement




62.2 a



in work teams







in student council







in managing council







in design of the object-spatial environment







in circles of additional education







in the work of the admissions committee







in holding events for peers of their own and other institutions







in celebrations and concerts







in sport events







in career guidance events







in professional skill competitions, Abilympics, WorldSkills







in organization of new circles and sport sections







in Programs “Vocational training without borders”







in socially significant projects







in presenting interesting information about VEO on their pages in social networks







Note: Opportunities to participate in college and technical school and actual participation in college and technical school were compared in pairs; statistically significant differences, according to the Mann—Whitney and Wilcoxon tests, between opportunities for participation in college and technical school are marked with the letter “a”: a (p<0.05), and between actual participation in college and technical school are marked with one asterisk (p<0.05) and two (p<0.01).

Table 4

The Frequency of Students’ Difficulties across the Sample

Indicate how often you experience difficulties









when studying several disciplines





when memorizing learning material





in preparation for homework





speaking at the blackboard





when writing tests





during industrial training





in the movement around the educational building





communicating with other students





in communication with students with disabilities





in communication with students from migrant families





when interacting with teachers





in communication with the other sex





in self-regulation of emotions and behavior





Table 5

Comparison of Students’ Answers about the Opportunity to Receive Support
and Assistance in VEO and its Actual Receipt

Indicate the consultations and assistance of which workers in VEO you have the opportunity to receive, and you have already received in the current academic year



Actual Receipt,





Social educator






Class teacher / curator / department head



Teaching assistant






Technical assistant



Masters of industrial training






Note: All differences between opportunities to receive support and actual receipt were statistically significant by the Mann—Whitney and Wilcoxon tests (p<0.05).


In conclusion, it should be noted that the design of an inclusive educational environment actualizes the long-standing issue of education. It is the issue of the agency of its participants, sharpening it in the concept of active participation. In this article, we did not set the main task of conducting an empirical study on this topic. Moving in the logic of modeling an inclusive educational environment as a whole system, at the conceptualization stage, we identified two approaches. The first approach considers an inclusive educational environment as a simple sum of adjacent components; such an approach in itself does not lead to solving the problem of building an inclusive educational environment, since it does not achieve the goal of including the participants in the environment as its agents, capable of turning external conditions of support into their actual opportunities. This task is solved within the framework of a different approach, which is based on the definition of a system-forming relationship between the conditions of support and the active participation of all actors of the educational environment in joint activities.

The empirical results of our study illustrate the theoretical position formulated above that the special conditions created in VEO aimed at supporting the initiative and activity of students are in demand in those forms of activity in which students show interest or consciously recognize their difficulties, which illustrates the theoretical provisions of the article on the collected empirical material.

Throughout the sample, despite the significant differences between the VEOs, a common characteristic was clearly observed, namely the degree of real participation of students in the forms of work was noticeably less than the degree of awareness of the possibilities of participation (in the ratio from about 3.08 to 4.58). As these studies have shown, it is in the forms of participation that reflect the interests and perceived needs of students that the conditions of support provided to a greater extent turn into realizable opportunities and ensure inclusion in joint activities.

From our point of view, to move from the conditions created in the educational institution to the opportunities for active participation of students in the educational process, special work is needed to identify, together with students, their interests, difficulties and to form an educational request. In this case, support for the agency of students will be provided, and not only external conditions will be created to meet certain educational needs. Such work requires the use of certain psychological and pedagogical technologies (for example: the technology of jointly distributed activities of teachers and students [9; 17; 22], the technology of a reflexive-activity approach [8], the technology of forming a reflexive movement in theatrical pedagogy within the framework of an inclusive plastic theater [15; 16], the technology of including students in the design of an individual educational route [23]).

The task of building an inclusive educational environment raises many questions. Further research will be focused on the analysis of the correlation of indicators of inclusiveness within the framework of the whole system and the development of technological support within the framework of an approach based on the system-forming relationship between the created special conditions, forms of psychological and pedagogical support and the active participation of all subjects of the educational environment in joint activities.


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Information About the Authors

Svetlana V. Alekhina, PhD in Psychology, Chief, Institute of Inclusive Education Problems, Moscow State University of Psychology and Education, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Elena V. Samsonova, PhD in Psychology, Head of the Research and Methodological Centre of the Institute of Inclusive Education Problems, Moscow State University of Psychology & Education, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Alexey Y. Shemanov, Doctor of Philosophy, Professor of the Department of Special Psychology and Rehabilitation of the Faculty of Clinical and Special Psychology, Leading Researcher of the Scientific and Methodological Center of the Institute for Problems of Inclusive Education, Moscow State University of Psychology & Education, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail: