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Both special and general education teachers realize the benefits of inclusive education. This method of learning is designed to create learning environments that are fair and nurturing for all students.
What is inclusive education?
Inclusive education gives all students access to effective learning options and pathways for reaching educational goals. Students feel a sense of belonging in spaces that offer flexible learning opportunities. All children can learn in an inclusive environment regardless of their ability or disability. It is based upon the belief that all children and their families are equally valued and should have equal access to the same educational opportunities.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a set of principles for curriculum development that ensures all students have equal learning opportunities. Inclusive education goes hand-in-hand with inclusive learning. The National Center on Universal Design for Learning states that UDL provides a blueprint for creating instructional methods, materials and assessments that work for everyone. It is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, UDL shares many similarities with Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, which documents “the extent that students have different types of minds and learn, remember, perform, understand and perform in different ways.”
Benefits of inclusive education
Research has shown that inclusive classrooms are beneficial for both children with disabilities as well as their peers. Special education teachers can enter and offer specialized instruction in an inclusive classroom instead of taking children out of the classroom. This allows general education teachers to collaborate with specialists in the same learning environment. All students benefit from this collaboration, as they are provided additional support and resources. Students with and without disabilities often see greater academic gains.
Think Inclusive published a 2001 study on “academic progress of students with disabilities in general and self-contained classes over two years.” 47% of students with disabilities progressed in math in general education, while 34% did so in self-contained classes. Both settings showed similar reading progress. The study showed that the math skills of students with disabilities were more effective than those of their peers. Researchers speculated that students with disabilities would benefit from the extra support and help they receive in these classes.
Other benefits include improved communication skills, social skills for students with disabilities, and fewer absences and disruptive behaviour.
Strategies for Inclusive Education
Are you ready for an inclusive learning environment in your classroom? This means challenging the status quo, eliminating curriculum barriers, and engaging all learners in educational goals that are interesting to all. Here are four key strategies to keep in mind when creating inclusive curricula and classrooms.
Universal design principles can be used to create accessible classrooms.
UDL is a collection of principles that was created out of the desire to give every student equal learning opportunities. It is based on the belief that each person has a unique learning style. UDL states that three major brain networks govern how people learn:
- The recognition network (the strategic network).
- The affective network (the how of learning).
- Engagement (the why of learning).
Teachers who want to use universal design in the classroom must understand the basics of UDL, including the brain networks and principles. The National Center on Universal Design for Learning offers a wealth of information and resources for educators interested. Videos with helpful tips and ideas for implementation can be found in the UDL Principles and Practices section of their YouTube Channel.
Luis Perez (author of Mobile Learning for All) suggests starting small. He stated that you wouldn’t apply every (guideline) lesson to every lesson. It all depends on the relevance of which ones to your learning goals. Begin with one lesson or activity, then work your way up to mastering the rest.
You can use a variety of instructional formats.
Universal design theory’s first principle is the “what” of learning. It states that you should use “multiple methods of representation.” Some students may be visual learners. Others might understand information better if it is written, spoken orally or through kinesthetic learning. Some students are better with one or more of these methods. These differentiated teaching methods can be helpful for students with disabilities. However, they also provide diversity in instruction for the entire class, allowing each student to learn how they prefer. In inclusive classrooms, it is crucial to use different media to communicate information and engage students. In inclusive classrooms, it is important to use different media to communicate information and engage students. Teachers can also use a variety of mediums and materials to engage students. You can use video, theatre, computer software, and art as mediums to engage students in addition to traditional media like text and lectures. Teachers can engage their entire class by using various teaching methods and mediums. This is not limited to students who respond to one learning style or expression.
It is essential to be familiar with the IEP and 504 plans of students to create an equitable learning environment. You are legally responsible for making any accommodations necessary for a student who has a 504 plan or an IEP plan. If you have a student with a 504 or IEP plan, you are legally required to make any necessary accommodations as outlined in the 504 or IEP. An IEP is not significantly different from a 504 except that IEP students may need additional education services beyond the regular classroom. These services are usually provided by an additional staff member who monitors them.
Create a plan for behaviour management
Classroom disruption can harm the teacher and the students. A behaviour management plan is a way to prepare for disruptive behaviour in the classroom. Most effective plans include a lot of positive reinforcement and clear expectations. There are many types of behaviour management plans that you can use depending on your classroom’s needs, such as a whole-group plan, small group plan, or individual plan.
Teachers can access inclusive learning resources.
Inclusive Schools Network – ISN is a digital resource that helps families, schools, and communities design and implements inclusive schools. You will find various resources, including collaboration strategies, assessment tools, and technical advice.
National Center for Learning Disability (NCLD) advocates for people with disabilities and offers programs and resources for parents and young adults. They publish studies and reports on various disability topics and provide scholarship information for students with learning or attention problems.
- Wrightslaw- Wrightslaw can be a great resource for anyone looking for information or to keep up-to-date on education law, special education law, and advocacy for children who have disabilities.
- TASH – TASH promotes inclusive communities through advocacy and research, professional development, policy, information and resources for parents and families, and advocacy and research. You can find a variety of publications, including an annual report, podcast, and a blog.
- ASCD – The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development covers various educational topics, not just inclusive learning. This resource is great for educators of all grades and disciplines, regardless of whether they want to create inclusive schools or improve their effectiveness in the classroom.
We believe in inclusive learning at the University of San Diego. Inclusion and special education are important topics for us to understand. We offer an online Master of Education degree that is 100% online with a specialization in inclusive learning, special education and universal design. Visit the USD Master of Education page to learn more and see the curriculum.