The Importance of Inclusivity In The Classroom
What Is an Inclusive Classroom?
An inclusive classroom is where students with and without learning differences learn together. All students receive an education that addresses their individual needs. No student is excluded based on type or degree of disability. A classroom in which all students, irrespective of their abilities or skills, are welcomed holistically.
The dictionary definition of inclusive is simply something that doesn't leave any person, part or group out. In other words, something is inclusive if it doesn't exclude a person, a part or a group of people.
Inclusion gives empowerment. When people are included, their worth is recognised and respected. People are at their best when they are their own authentic selves. To be one's authentic self, one must feel included.
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 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.
What is the main purpose of the Equality Act 2010?
The Equality Act 2010 legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace or society. The Act provides a legal framework to protect the rights of individuals and advance equality of opportunity for all. It protects individuals from unfair treatment and promotes a fair and more equal society.
Prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of religion, caste, race, sex or place of birth (Article 15)
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.
Why Is Inclusive Education Important?
The aim of this blog isn’t the history of inclusion but the importance of inclusion for ALL. The concept of inclusion in the classroom is usually limited to just students with disabilities like behavioural issues, social issues, personal issues, intellectual deficits, cognitive impairments, and physical diversity. Still, 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 their environment. It is extremely significant to have open and honest discussions with our kids and students to teach them. It is important to 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 learning 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!
Practices to Create an Inclusive Classroom
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 students understand what behaviour is acceptable and unacceptable will help them clearly know what you expect from them. Involve your students in putting 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 of 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. Behaviour in the Classroom
Deal with students who misbehave in a subtle way and enforce ground rules consistently. Just as establishing rules is 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 in 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, in care, from a different racial or religious background or having 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 not to 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 and adding 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.
Benefits of Inclusive Classroom
What are the benefits of supporting equality, diversity and inclusive practice?
- Makes it more successful.
- Prevent serious or legal issues such as bullying, harassment and discrimination.
- To better serve a diverse range of people.
- Improve ideas and problem-solving.
The most crucial 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.
Ensuring Fairness and Equality in the Classroom
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, and create a safe and supportive environment?
Do you have different expectations of students of colour than white students, male or female students, or students from the LGBTQ community?
I would love to hear your feedback. If you are a part of ELN Alumni, then join us and share what you think on our LinkedIn group. You can also find volunteer jobs through Jobsora.
ELN Courses for Managing Equality and Diversity in the Classroom
Finally, the idea behind this blog is to create awareness and promote an inclusive environment in the classroom and the community. The view must be held that everyone is different but must have the same opportunities.
If you are a teacher who wants to establish and promote an inclusive classroom, then check out our CPD Managing Equality and Diversity in Classroom.
Do you want to create a supportive, respectful environment in your classroom?
Sign Up with our series of CPDs for an Inclusive Classroom.
Farheen Zahid - ELN Tutor, June 2021