Definition of inclusion
Inclusive education – also called inclusion – is education that includes everyone, with non-disabled and Disabled people (including those with “special educational needs”) learning together in mainstream schools, colleges and universities.
This means the system must adapt to include Disabled people – they should not have to adapt to the system (see models of disability). The education system must recognise that it creates barriers for Disabled learners, for instance if parts of the school are inaccessible. Disabled pupils and students may require adaptations and support to access the curriculum.
Here are some examples:
- Faisal is a wheelchair user. So that he can go to the debating society after school, the accessible minibus collects him at a later time.
- Jenny has dyslexia. So that she can study a book along with the class, the teacher asks her to listen to the audio book rather than reading the text.
- James is Deaf and communicates using sign language. Instead of taking him out of his lessons to have a separate lesson with a sign language teacher, his teachers, teaching assistants and the pupils learn to sign too in order to communicate with him.
What inclusion is not
- Special schools and colleges just for Disabled children and students. This is called segregation.
- Separate units in mainstream schools and colleges. This is segregation too.
- Disabled children and students in mainstream education, but without enough support for them to be truly included. This is called integration. Disabled learners are in mainstream education, but their needs are not met.
What is inclusive practice?
Inclusive practice can be defined as attitudes and methods that ensure all learners can access mainstream education. Everyone works to make sure all learners feel welcome and valued, and that they get the right support to help them develop their talents and achieve their goals. When education is truly inclusive it can actually benefit all learners, not only Disabled learners.
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by Hannah Wahlig / in Science & education
Inclusive learning describes an education practice in which students with special needs are incorporated into mainstream classrooms. Also called inclusion, inclusive learning seeks to provide all students with an opportunity to access high-quality education from professionally trained teachers and aids. Though inclusion is now mandated by federal law, some groups and individuals believe inclusive learning creates difficult learning environments for students and teachers. Proponents of inclusive learning contend that desegregated classrooms lead to higher-quality education for both disabled and non-disabled students.
Inclusive learning was introduced the 1960s as part of a larger discussion about integration as schools began desegregating classrooms after the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Brown vs Board of Education Topeka. President Eisenhower introduced legislation that provided federal funding to train teachers of special needs students. In the 1980s, schools began independently adopting inclusion practices in classrooms, but it was not until the Disabilities Education Act in 1990 that the law mandated that all students with disabilities have access to inclusive learning environments and high-quality education outcomes. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 expanded upon the Disabilities Education Act to further extend rights to inclusion to students and parents of students with disabilities.
- Inclusive learning was introduced the 1960s as part of a larger discussion about integration as schools began desegregating classrooms after the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Brown vs Board of Education Topeka.
- In the 1980s, schools began independently adopting inclusion practices in classrooms, but it was not until the Disabilities Education Act in 1990 that the law mandated that all students with disabilities have access to inclusive learning environments and high-quality education outcomes.
Inclusive education ensures that students with mental, physical or learning disabilities receive education in their least restrictive environment (LRE). Though individual student LREs vary by the students’ individual needs, most LREs are in classrooms with non-disabled students. The majority of instruction occurs in desegregated classrooms while teachers and aids provide necessary supportive services to the disabled student. Students with disabilities are given assessments that accurately measure the students’ skills; sometimes these alternative assessments are different from the general assessment given to the class. For instance, during a written spelling test, a student with disabilities may have the words read aloud to him and then recite the spelling back to the aid instead of writing the word down. Teachers, parents and specialists develop Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for each student requiring additional services. IEPs outline the student’s abilities, goals and accommodations in the classroom.
- Inclusive education ensures that students with mental, physical or learning disabilities receive education in their least restrictive environment (LRE).
- Though individual student LREs vary by the students’ individual needs, most LREs are in classrooms with non-disabled students.
Inclusive education is seen as a large aspect in achieving ability-based equality. Laws that support inclusion are aimed at ensuring that all students have access to high-quality education regardless of their level of ability. Proponents of inclusion believe that segregated classrooms result in inferior educational quality for students relegated to the low-ability classrooms. Inclusive learning proposes that all students are capable of learning so long as accommodations are made to their specific needs.
- Inclusive education is seen as a large aspect in achieving ability-based equality.
- Inclusive learning proposes that all students are capable of learning so long as accommodations are made to their specific needs.
Opponents to inclusion believe that inclusion is too expensive for school districts–however, integrating students into mainstream classrooms reduces the need for full-time staffing positions and additional classroom space and supplies in segregated classrooms. Others believe that inclusive classrooms offer special treatment to students with disabilities–however, inclusion is based on giving all students equal access to knowledge when a disability prevents a child from learning in a traditional way. Some people worry that inclusive classrooms are disruptive to students without disabilities–however, inclusive classrooms often help non-disabled students develop empathy and positive awareness of differences without sacrificing the quality of their learning.
Inclusive classrooms have many benefits for students with disabilities. Students with disabilities are given one-on-one instructional assistance without being isolated from other students or teachers. Students are able to develop practical social and interpersonal skills through interactions with classmates. They are exposed to a wider range of subjects, skills and knowledge in inclusive classrooms than in segregated classrooms. Teachers benefit through expanding their instructional approaches, skills and abilities through federally funded training and professional development courses.
Inclusion in the Classroom
The history of inclusion in the US school system is quite brief. For many years children with special needs were either sent to their own schools or left out of education altogether. Improvements in inclusion have been incremental over the years. First schools opened special education units with children having little to no contact with their typically performing peers. Today we are mandated to educate students in the least restrictive environment, which means that, hopefully, kids are spending as much of their days as possible in the regular ed classroom.
Unfortunately, though laws have changed not all schools have adapted to be inclusive. In our current society, we have a plethora of information at our fingertips to help us understand the variety of special needs students have. With increased understanding and technology now, more than ever, children with special needs should be included in the regular classroom. It is what’s best for all children.
Advantages of Inclusion
What are the advantages of inclusion? Some would argue that being in the regular classroom is too frustrating for kids with special needs because they can’t keep up. The advantages of inclusion far outweigh any drawbacks, however, and the drawbacks can often be mitigated.
Role Models: Inclusion is better for kids with special needs because they can see other ‘typical’ kids and emulate them. They get an opportunity to learn acceptable social behaviors and to learn from their peers.
Social and Emotional Development: School isn’t just about academic needs. Kids social and emotional needs also must be considered. It is important for kids to have as normal a school experience as possible.
Increased Tolerance: Inclusion is better for kids without special needs than keeping kids with special needs isolated. The more kids with special needs are included the more their peers start to see the kids for who they are.
Children from inclusive classrooms have more opportunities to develop tolerance for differences and empathy for others.
Creating an Inclusive Climate
For inclusion to work well, schools and classrooms need to foster inclusive environments. But how?
Build Relationships: It is important for teachers to foster a one-on-one relationship with each of their students as much as possible. This can be accomplished by greeting them each at the door, asking them about their interests, and using genuine praise in the classroom.
Celebrate Diversity: Pay attention to the materials you use in class. Do they depict children from a variety of backgrounds and with varying abilities? How do books, videos, and other materials portray children with special needs? Celebrate the diversity in your classroom and teach your students to do the same.
Educate Yourself: Educate yourself about the specific disabilities any of the students you work with have. You can then educate your students. Education leads to understanding which then leads to compassion and connection.
Encourage Interaction: Give students opportunities to interact with each other so they can build friendships and a sense of community.
Strengths-Based Approach: Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Help kids develop their strengths and see that kids with special needs have strengths too. Focus on progress, no matter how small.
Teaching Strategies For Inclusion
These teaching strategies help students of all backgrounds to be successful in the regular education classroom.
Differentiate Instruction: When teachers differentiate all students can participate and work at their current ability.
Make Objectives Clear: Posting and reviewing objectives in age-appropriate language helps all students achieve the desired objective of each lesson. It is especially helpful for kids with special needs.
Adapt: Teachers are masters at adapting. We watch our students and constantly assess; slowing down when they don’t understand something then speeding up when it’s clear they’ve already got it. We challenge those that are ready for more and provide extra support to those that need it.
Explicit Teaching and Modeling: Model for students and gradually turn the responsibility over to the student. The “I do, We do, You do” approach is especially beneficial to kids with special needs; it gives them the support they need to keep up with traditional classroom activities.
Have a Positive Attitude: As the teacher, your positive attitude about inclusion sets the tone for the rest of the class.
If you see having special needs students in your classroom as a growth opportunity and a positive, your students will too.
Teach to Different Learning Styles: Vary the learning styles you target. Use different approaches and try to cater to many different learning styles so that all students can learn. For example, one lesson you might incorporate movement and music while another you encourage students to write and draw.
Inclusion for All
Inclusion is good for all students. The strategies teachers use to make the regular education classroom appropriate for students with special needs are helpful for all students. Including students of all backgrounds and abilities increases tolerance and empathy among students. Inclusion is worth it.
By: Amy Curletto
Amy has been teaching for 12 years in grades K-2. She has a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education and also has endorsements in reading and ESL. Besides education, her other passion is writing and she has always dreamed of being a writer. She lives in Utah with her husband, her 3 daughters, and her miniature schnauzer. She enjoys reading, knitting, and camping.
What does ‘inclusive practises’ mean and how can we ensure that all our classrooms and work environments are truly inclusive? Varinder Unlu explores in this third instalment from her series on supporting specific learning differences.
Inclusion is about how we structure our schools, our classrooms and our lessons so that all our students learn and participate together. An inclusive classroom is one that creates a supportive environment for all learners, including those with learning differences and one that can also challenge and engage gifted and talented learners by building a more responsive learning environment.
Inclusivity also means respecting people from all backgrounds and cultures. By teaching our students the importance of this we can create a much more tolerant and understanding environment, not just in the classroom and school but also in wider society.
An inclusive school or classroom can only be successful when all students feel they are truly part of the school community. This can only happen through open, honest discussion about differences and understanding and respecting people from all abilities and backgrounds. An inclusive environment is one where everyone feels valued.
How do you currently promote inclusivity in the classroom?
Here are some questions for reflection:
– Think about your own values and approach to disability, gender, race etc. Does how you teach acknowledge the experiences of the students from different backgrounds? Is your approach non-stereotypical? Do you encourage alternative perspectives, debate ideas, create an environment which is open to representation of different viewpoints?
– Are your students treated as individuals, encouraged to share their own lives and interests?
– Are your examples non-stereotypical?
– In a racially diverse ELT classroom, have you thought about your own conscious or unconscious biases about people from other cultures? Do you have different expectations of students of colour than you do of white students, of male or female students, of students from LGBTQ community?
5 inclusivity practises to consider
1) Create a supportive, respectful environment: promote diversity and fairness.
2) Have high expectations of all your students. Research shows that students respond better when they feel that their teacher has faith in their abilities and is not focusing on their inabilities.
3) Create a supportive peer culture both inside and outside the classroom. This is when you empower learners to respect and trust each other, making empathy and caring ‘fashionable’ and reinforcing positive and pro-social attitudes by encouraging learners to help each other.
4) Plan learning which includes participation from everyone and encourages success. You can do this by creating an environment which is personalised to students’ needs and by talking about learning that focuses on what students can do and what they would like to do next. This can be done through tutorials, Individual Learning Plans (ILPs), and short and long term goal setting by the learner so that they feel they have ownership of their learning. If you provide students with opportunities to tell you what is working and what needs attention, you will have a better idea of what to focus on.
5) Take a ‘community’ approach to learning and teaching. Inclusive values are developed through a student’s lived experience and their exposure to other cultures and world-views. Bring your community into the classroom and take your classroom out to the community.
Creating an inclusive environment will not only help those students with learning differences – it will also support those students that don’t have a learning difference by making them more aware, tolerant and understanding of each other.
Elementary school students spend up to six hours in school each day, and while they’re learning academic skills like reading, math, and spelling, they’re also learning important life skills like how to get along with others. This is especially true on Valentine’s Day, where in most schools students pass out cards and sweet notes to their classmates.
While this is an age-old tradition, it’s important for students to be loving and inclusive everyday, not just on special holidays. Luckily, by creating unique curriculum and classroom activities and promoting inclusivity through play, teachers are helping students learn the valuable lesson to be kind and loving to their classmates. Here are five ways students learn to be inclusive in school.
Diversity in the classroom
In any given school or classroom, there are a number of differences among students; different genders, races and ethnicities, learning styles, physical traits, abilities, etc. This gives students an excellent opportunity to interact with people who aren’t exactly like them.
Kids are inherently wired to be kind, and their capacity grows with practice. In school we can encourage kids to interact and appreciate all of their classmates, especially those who are different. More and more teachers are promoting an inclusive classroom environment and teaching kids to embrace and appreciate every kid for what makes them unique and special. “I love my neighbor who” is one game students can play in class to appreciate differences and notice what they have in common with their classmates.
Including all students in activities
Kids often enjoy bringing things to share with their classmates, like cookies, cupcakes, or holiday cards. While the students who receive the items feel special, the ones who don’t feel left out. As a result, many teachers have rules that students need to try to include everyone. According to the Inclusive Schools Network, “Effective models of inclusive education not only benefit students with disabilities but also create an environment in which every student, including those who do not have disabilities, has the opportunity to flourish.”
Just like the tradition of passing out Valentine’s Day cards or surprises to each student in class, teachers encourage students to include everyone when bringing in special treats for their classmates. On the playground, teachers set the same expectations by encouraging games that are accessible to all students and creating a culture where everyone is asked to join in.
Promoting cultural activities and awareness
Teachers plan activities and curriculum that allow students to learn about their classmates’ cultural backgrounds. For example, many schools this month are teaching curriculum specifically designed to focus on Black History Month. Students can also bring in food or share traditional items that have a significance in their culture.
Activities like these allow students to learn from their peers and ask questions about anything they don’t understand. Bullying and teasing are often caused by a lack of understanding, and teachers can plan curriculum to promote understanding and celebrate differences.
Learning through play
Encouraging games and other activities allows students to learn in a fun, relaxed environment. Teachers use games that promote teamwork and inclusion and allow students to have fun and work together towards a common goal. Games help children learn by developing physical, emotional, and academic skills. For example, through games like jump rope and Steal the Bacon, kids learn to follow directions and take turns.
When students play games, they have so much fun and forget that they’re learning. This creates the perfect environment for them to learn to work with others and embrace their classmates’ strengths and weaknesses.
Kids enjoy their time at school
When kids have the support of kind, caring adults and their peers throughout the school day, they are more likely to enjoy school. When school is a safe environment where kids feel accepted and loved, they are more apt to come to class ready to learn.
Let’s continue to encourage creative curriculum, inclusive activities, and learning through play. Kids will learn important academic skills and also learn to embrace and accept differences and grow up to be kind, compassionate human beings.
Maile Proctor is a former YMCA camp leader and after-school coordinator for THING Together. She writes about health and fitness, lifestyle and family, how-to advice, and more.
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Inclusive education is largely based on an attitude towards educating students with special needs. Essentially, it does not differentiate between students who are typically developing and students who are not. It is about educating all students, alongside same-age peers and peers with varying abilities, in a general education classroom.
Inclusive education is reliant on student access to curriculum. Schools must create opportunities using activities, space and materials so that all students can learn. If you are working in an inclusive classroom or are on the journey to becoming one, here are 10 items that can make your classroom more inclusive:
1. A Large Table
There is no piece of furniture more important in an inclusive classroom than a table large enough for small groups of students. Having a table allows the teacher to bring students together and provide them with various types of instructional programming that meet the needs of the group. In addition, students can meet at the table to work together on projects, have discussions or use as an alternate work space. The table is usually placed in a prominent area of the room, and facilitates many opportunities for students to be members of a group.
Technology is vital to the 21st century classroom. Not only does it allow students to keep up with our changing world, it provides accessibility to the curriculum for learners with special needs. Whether it be a computer, iPad, audio/visual equipment or assistive devices, technology can play various roles in the inclusive classroom. It can offer educational software, provide an accessible curriculum to children with special needs and help differentiate lessons. Highly engaging, technology appeals to most groups of students and supports inclusion in numerous ways.
Inclusive classrooms provide curriculum for different types of learners. For some learners, they prefer a “hands-on” approach to help them understand lessons. Manipulatives can support this process by allowing students to demonstrate their knowledge, develop new levels of understanding and explore deeper concepts. Manipulatives can be easily grouped, placed into plastic containers and put on shelves around the room. Useful for all ages, manipulatives are an easy way to make a classroom more inclusive.
4. Visual Aides
Visual aides are, undoubtedly, very important items in the inclusive classroom. They attract student interest, explain an idea or help a student understand a lesson. Visual aides come in many forms and there should be a variety available in a classroom to facilitate inclusion.
Some examples include: schedules, posters, number lines, charts, diagrams, graphic organizers and different types of paper such as lined, plain or graph. A visual aide can also be a SMART Board, television or iPad. Inclusive classrooms always have numerous types of visual aides handy to help deliver, accommodate or modify a lesson.
5. Positive Behavior Management System
A positive behavior management system can support and maintain a safe, optimal learning environment. It allows the teacher to highlight and reinforce the strengths of individual learners. In addition, it provides students with cues to good behavior.
Supporting student behavior, maintaining a calm learning environment and providing predictable routines assist in giving all learners optimal learning conditions. For a detailed description of a positive behavior management system used in inclusive classrooms, you can refer to My Secret Strategy to Successful Classroom Management.
6. High-Interest Leveled Books
Inclusive classrooms recognize that students learn in different ways in different rates. Not only do teachers want to provide lessons that address the varying abilities, but also provide classroom materials that all students can use. As well as textbooks, an inclusive classroom should also provide books that can be read for enjoyment. Offering books (or audio books) that are age-appropriate, interesting and can be read by readers at different levels are an important way of making a classroom more inclusive.
7. Job Chart
A Job Chart serves several purposes in a classroom. First, it helps keep the classroom running smoothly. Second, it enlists the help of the students and makes the workload lighter. Finally, and most importantly, it allows all students to contribute to the successful operation of the classroom. Class jobs are usually rotated weekly, with students participating in the best way they can for the betterment of the group. Often overlooked, yet very effective, a class job chart can include every student in the classroom in numerous ways.
Teachers need to have a method of choosing students for classroom-based activities in a fair manner. There are many strategies for this, but one simple and easy way that ensures all children in the classroom have an opportunity to be included is called Popsicle Sticks. This method involves putting each child’s name on a popsicle stick (found at craft stores) and placing all the sticks in a jar. Whenever the teacher requires students to make teams, complete a task, or answer a question, a popsicle stick is randomly chosen from the jar. This strategy ensures that every child in the classroom has a chance of being asked to complete the task and done so in an unbiased manner.
9. Student Information Binder
Because an inclusive class welcomes learners of all abilities, it is extremely important that teachers track the strengths and needs of each student. Important data such as assessments, observations, IEPs and notes can be kept together in one place. The teacher can use this information to ensure that all students are included and participating in the classroom program. A teacher can easily combine information into a Student Information Binder which will support the implementation of an inclusive curriculum.
Games such as card games, board games and classroom games are often used by teachers to reinforce a new concept. However, they also play a large role in teaching students social skills and team work. Because game choices are endless, they provide many different ways in which a student can participate. Most importantly, games can allow students to relax in the learning environment, enjoy one another’s company and form relationships.
Strategies For The Inclusive Classroom
Special education teachers often provide training and support to general education teachers to promote successful inclusive practices in their classrooms. Understanding expectations, facilitating social skills, and designing and evaluating the effectiveness of positive learning environments helps all students, especially those with disabilities, learn and be productive in school.
Create a 12-15 slide digital presentation, to be given to general classroom teachers in a professional development setting, on inclusion and classroom management strategies that can be incorporated into classrooms. Include a title slide, reference slide, and presenter’s notes.
The presentation should help the general education teachers build their skills in the following areas:
Identifying realistic expectations for the personal and social behaviors of students with mild to moderate disabilities in a general education inclusive classroom.
Assisting individuals with mild to moderate disabilities to develop their interpersonal skills for educational and other social environments.
Designing learning environments that motivate and encourage active participation in individual and group activities for individuals with and without disabilities.
Organizing, developing, and sustaining learning environments that support positive multicultural experiences.
Using collaborative learning groups and project-based activities to help individuals with and without disabilities practice self-determination and self-advocacy skills.
Support your findings with a 3-5 scholarly resources.
Published On: July 15, 2020
Educators are having to retool their approach to teaching English as a second language, given the growing number of English language learners in the U.S.
“The percentage of public school students in the United States who were English language learners (ELLs) was higher in fall 2016 (9.6 percent, or 4.9 million students) than in fall 2000 (8.1 percent, or 3.8 million students),” notes the National Center for Education Statistics.
Teachers are faced with the challenge of creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for an increasingly diverse student population. An inclusive classroom environment is one that encourages active participation and facilitates learning for all students. While promoting sensitivity to cultural differences, one of the biggest hurdles to engaging all students is the language barrier that some students must overcome.
English teacher and education writer Rusul Alrubail writes, “Being an English Language Learner in the classroom can be a very overwhelming experience for students regardless of age. It’s important for educators to build an atmosphere that fosters a safe and empathetic environment for ELL students.” Recalling her days as an ELL student in the fifth grade, Alrubail shares that most of her challenges dealt with the social aspect of integrating into a new school and classroom, and with new classmates.
Benefits to Inclusiveness in the Classroom
Students will take their cues from the teacher when it comes to interacting with ELL students. Teachers must be genuine and non-judgmental when dealing with students. ELL students may quickly withdraw if they are treated differently, and learning outcomes will suffer. A positive learning environment is one in which students learn acceptance of differences in culture, religion, economic status and language so that all students feel respected and supported.
Whether ELL students have a separate specialized class for English or are mainstreamed with a fluent English classroom, the goals of inclusiveness and achieving English fluency are the same.
Tips for Teachers
In an article on strategies for promoting a multicultural environment in the classroom, Bright Hub Education shares some tips for teachers. Teachers can help all students understand one another by creating a word wall in the classroom which shows common vocabulary words in both English and the ELL students’ native language(s). Another way to foster inclusion is to have a multicultural library in the classroom. This helps expose children to different cultures without pressure. Celebrating cultural differences by having food fairs, making posters highlighting different cultures, and holding question-and-answer time about culture or homeland are ways to include all students.
Dr. Kelly S. Meier has worked in education for more than 30 years, and has authored many books on educational leadership. She encourages teachers to pay attention to their classroom environment. “When a student walks into your classroom, the environment should convey inclusion. What pictures do you have on your walls? How is the room arranged?” Her recommendation is to intentionally weave diversity into the fabric of the educational experience.
From her experiences as both a student and a teacher, Rusul Alrubail has some recommendations for teachers looking to create an inclusive classroom. One simple suggestion that shows personal respect for all students is to learn how to properly pronounce their names and, when necessary, correct students who mispronounce their classmates’ names.
Understanding that in some cultures it is not socially acceptable to ask questions, it is crucial for teachers to make sure that ELL students are given information about daily routines that might seem obvious. Explaining use of the restroom, eating and drinking, what to do when feeling ill, how lineups work, what the start- and end-of-school day procedures are, how recess and lunch breaks work — these are basics that all students need to understand.
Teachers can integrate culture into the curriculum by including artists, inventors, creators and prominent figures from other cultures and countries, and by advocating for diversity and equality in school displays.
Alrubail reminds teachers that it’s okay for students to speak their first language. She notes, “If you ‘enforce’ an English only rule in the classroom it will create a divide and a form of resistance from struggling ELL students. Instead, allow them to speak a language of their choice. Go over to them and find out if they have any questions or need clarification on instructions. Instantly, this builds a conversation and a connection between you and the student.”
Specializing in Bilingual Education
Education professionals who want to gain expertise in developing inclusive educational strategies for teaching diverse student populations can do so by pursuing a Master of Science in Curriculum and Instruction with a Specialization in Bilingual Education degree. Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) has a fully online program designed for working professionals.
The TAMIU online degree program consists of 33 credit hours and can be completed in as few as 12 months. The flexibility of multiple start dates offered throughout the year combined with the fully online format make this an ideal option for those who don’t want to quit working to attend in-person classes on campus.
The curriculum includes courses on History and Philosophy of Bilingual Education, Bilingual Oral Language Assessment and Development, Bilingual/Multicultural Teaching Strategies, Teaching English as a Second Language, Teaching Reading and Language Arts in Bilingual Setting, and more.