Inclusion in Education and Training
Gone are the days when students with SEN (Special Educational Needs) were not permitted to attend regular schools instead it was believed that they were not capable of receiving education or were sent to a special institution.
In the American legislation, the roots of inclusion came out of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. In 1954, the Supreme Court observed in Brown v. Board of Education, that, “separate … facilities are inherently unequal.” It led directly to the passage of Public Law 94-142 in 1975, now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). https://www.njcie.org/inclusion
You can't go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.
In the UK, under the Equality Act 2010, it’s against the law for schools and other education providers to discriminate against disabled children. Examples of discrimination include:
- A school refusing to admit a disabled child just because of their disability
- stopping a disabled pupil from going outside at break time because it takes them longer to get there
Schools have to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for disabled children. These can include:
- Changes to physical features, eg adding a ramp
- Changes to how learners are assessed
- Providing extra support and aids, eg specialist teachers or equipment
The aim of this blog isn’t the history of inclusion, it is the importance of inclusion for ALL. The concept of inclusion is usually limited to just students with disabilities like behavioural issues, social issues, personal issues, intellectual deficits, cognitive impairments, and physical diversity but it’s a lot more than just that. Inclusion for ALL also includes students with different spiritual identities, sexual identities, gender identities, religions and cultures.
Inclusion is a basic right of everyone. True inclusion can only be when all barriers have been removed and everyone feels safe, included, supported and respected regardless of whichever environment they are in. It is extremely significant to have open and honest discussions with our kids and students to teach them the importance, so we can create a much more tolerant and understanding environment, not just in the classroom but in society also. This can only happen through open, honest discussion about differences and understanding and respecting people from all abilities and backgrounds.
In the context of school and education, Inclusion simply means to include EVERY student learn alongside their same-age peers - whether they have SEN, speak English as a second language, are of a minority community or religion, low-income family –should have equal access to learning and the same opportunities to accomplish and succeed. It’s all about creating a safe and supportive learning environment for ALL types of students.
Caring about people and helping them should be a basic human response, not a political debate!
There are a few tips and tricks that all teachers can include to create a safe, supportive, happy, purposeful and inclusive learning environment in a classroom.
1. Establish simple and clear ground rules.
Establishing ground rules so that students understand what behaviour is acceptable and unacceptable it will help students clearly know what you expect from them. Involve your students to put together what they feel is acceptable and unacceptable. The best time to do this is at the beginning, revise it from time to time, make sure it’s always visible and also include pictures so it’s easy to understand and remember at first glance.
Some examples for setting non-negotiable ground rules can be:
- Violence, aggression or bullying of any kind is not allowed
- Hateful or foul language is not allowed
- Respect everyone and their property – don't break it or take it
- Raise your hand if you wish to speak. Don’t call out or speak over another student.
2. Deal with students who misbehave in a subtle way and enforce ground rules consistently.
Just as establishing rules are important, it’s equally significant to have consequences if the rules are broken. Make sure to give a few initial warnings (talk to them nicely, understand why they are behaving a certain way, listen to them, give a stern look if it keeps happening, revise the rules constantly, keep an award for good behaviour etc) but for serious and constant rule-breaking and after enough warnings, make sure to abide by the rules laid in Skinner’s Operant Conditioning for Behaviour modelling.
3. Use a scaffolded approach to learning.
Different Scaffolding techniques are used in the classroom to help students reach their maximum potential. The instructor assigned to the student retreats slowly as the students’ skills start improving. Scaffolding aids students with developing mathematical skills, science and language. To read more, click on Scaffolding.
Be aware of the individual needs of every student in your class, it can include SEN, social or personal problems, are in care, from a different racial or religious background or have English as a second language etc. Knowing this will help you consider every aspect of your classroom so you can make it inclusive.
4. Listen to and support all students
Listen to them and ask what has upset them and why. What caused them to not be able to concentrate or create a situation?
Create opportunities every day to listen to the students, this will make them engage in learning and feel included.
Provide support for them in a way that will include ALL learners, for example, an increase of font, add graphics that will help autistic and other students as well.
Various resources and assistive technologies should be available to students in inclusive schools in an effort to reach and teach all learners.
5. Different ways to assess students
Provide different alternatives for the same task and let the students decide at the end of the lesson how they wish to present their learning. Students can choose what they are best at and explain what they have learnt in their own way.
- Write an essay
- Make a presentation
- Make a poster or infographic
- Record a film or radio program
Giving students a choice empowers them. It's inclusive because it creates equal opportunities to show learning and progress in a way that a standard test may not.
It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognise, accept and celebrate those differences - Audre Lorde
The most important point is – DO NOT compare students to each other! Personal progress is the point. It is NOT a competition. Learning is a never-ending journey that is different for each individual. Focus on their personal progress, that way it will help all students to achieve their best.
Focus on their abilities and not on their inabilities or disabilities
Here are some points that you should reflect on.
Think about your own values and approach to disability, gender, race, etc. how do you teach or acknowledge individual learner needs? Is your approach non-stereotypical? Do you encourage alternative perspectives, debate ideas, create an environment that is safe and supportive?
Do you have different expectations of students of colour than you do of white students, of male or female students, or students from the LGBTQ community?
I would love to hear your feedback. You can email me at [email protected] OR if you are a part of ELN Alumni then join us and share what you think on our LinkedIn group.
Finally, the whole idea behind this blog is to create awareness and promote an inclusive environment not just in the classroom but also in the community. The view must be held that everyone is different but must have the same opportunities.
Create a supportive, respectful environment: promote diversity and equity.
Farheen Zahid - ELN Tutor, June 2021