Helping Teachers Create More Inclusive Classrooms

Fatima scores A+ in all the class tests and is bored at school. Joseph has dyslexia. Jane uses crutches to move around. Mohammed cannot see very well. Sara excels in mathematics but struggles with spelling. Boris can’t sit still for more than 20 minutes. And Mina has autism.

What do they all have in common? They are all learners, and all have the same right to a high-quality education.

Many schools and classrooms around the world—from preschools all the way to colleges and universities—still need to be more inclusive. They need to ensure that every child feels welcomed, supported, and safe. This is much easier said than done, I know.

But as my colleagues and I at the Enabling Education Network (EENET) have long argued, the model currently favored in so many schools and preschool systems, in which some children are separated from others and put in specialized institutions, is not working. It is not enabling every child to receive a quality education and become a productive member of their communities.

We’re not alone in this respect. A shift is slowly happening away from segregated education towards classrooms and schools that are more inclusive. There are cases, however, when administrators and teachers agree on the need to create a more inclusive environment—but they simply don’t know how to do it.

That doesn’t mean there is no information about inclusive education out there—there is plenty. But existing guidance materials are often inappropriate, and many have failed to meet the needs of the teachers, trainers, and education managers who contact EENET for advice. Many existing materials only offer guidance on including specific groups of children, rather than creating a more holistically inclusive environment. Others are too abstract and theoretical, or too ambitious.

At EENET, our mission is to inform and encourage discussions about inclusive education among a wide range of administrators, teachers, parents, nongovernmental organizations, and policymakers. In recent years, it has become clear to us that there is a growing demand for materials that not only explain why inclusive education matters, but that also offer practical and hands-on advice about how to implement it. Inclusive classrooms do not have to be complicated or expensive, and more guidance materials need to demonstrate this.

That is why we decided to create An Inclusive Day: Building Foundations for Learner-Centred Inclusive Education, a new video-based training resource for school leaders and teachers—especially those working with limited resources and a student body with a wide array of needs. Filmed within school communities in Burkina Faso, Myanmar, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom, the videos offer guidance on practical, everyday issues such as getting to school, preparing lessons, understanding learners’ needs, managing break times, and so on.

For instance, in one of the videos, we show that something as achievable as having a friendly, smiling teacher who welcomes every student in the morning—and who encourages other students to do the same—can make a big difference and encourage an overall culture of inclusion. Meanwhile, another video shows teachers that planning inclusive lessons is much easier when it’s done collaboratively with colleagues.

Quality teaching and inclusive education are two sides of the same coin. Together with our funders, we believe that inclusion needs to happen as early as possible in every child’s life, including in preschool activities. It is time to stop seeing inclusive education as a complex and specialist process requiring skills that ordinary teachers lack.

Giving extra support to some learners, offering others more advanced activities, making low-cost or no-cost adjustments to the school environment, taking time to understand learners’ interests and strengths—these aren’t the actions of a specialist. They’re part of the daily process for any quality teacher.

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11 Comments

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It takes a special person to teach. It also takes an innovative administrator to lead a quality inclusive school environment.

We are encouraged by this write-up. Keep it up.

Very practical and visionary at the same time. Thank you

Thanks for your work. I work in a college of Teacher Education and the resources and guidelines are very helpful.
George

Teaching must be recognized as one of the most challenging professions, considering the time one has to manage dedicating to others. If a concept of a creative classroom exists, so is the complicity beholding it. Either way, making a member of a class community should also be an important matter for officials who are in charge of creating them. As a child, I was made to believe that in most cases teachers are freely chosen by the alumni. As I grew older, I understood this was a myth (one of the many that rise and fall to deceive sincere concerns-maybe so that they are comfortably stolen).The sense of self control and self inclusivity is a pre-adventurous lesion that kids need in their system.

This is real practical inclusive teaching and learning demonstrated, thanks.

We need to appreciate that a creative teacher can make a big difference in pupils learning. The practical way being demonstrated is not too difficult to be done any where in a poor resource learning environment but it requires a teacher who is ready to upgrade their practice.

We are who we are because of the teacher who taught us! The person we see is the workmanship of the teacher and a good teacher makes a sharper learner. Inclusion is key for us to touch dark spots of quality education.

In the UK, classrooms are 'inclusive' however, teachers are not superhumans and struggle to give appropriate work at such diverse levels without impacting overall attainment of most students. The teachers are exhausted and underpaid, and administrators mainly deliver policies that protect themselves vs advance quality in teaching. Since people thrive in environments where specialists can meet special needs, I disagree with the premise of this article. Yes, non special needs students may become more accepting and empathetic of others, however, the dynamic is stressfull to all and it underserves all. I also state that if this were truly 'open' it would be open to all opinions, not just its own opinion.

I like to work with kids help them and learn

I think someone at the Foundation needs to fund a type of Tavistock Institute /Mass Observation analysis of what is currently going on. These simplistic sound bite articles are not helpful. Oldham would be a good place to start as it received a lot of government funding after the riots there. Firstly there are two communities that loath each other, those who came from East Pakistan- Bangladesh and those from West Pakistan-Pakistan. Pakistan was especially brutal in trying to supress the independence movement and this left a legacy that continues, they do not mix. Add to this an unwillingness to integrate with the local Oldham population supported by some of the preachers and we have a very divided town. Rather than send their children to the nearest local school parents from each community are prepared to travel for longer to ensure their children are with their own community. This polarisation is happening across the major northern towns and cities. The reason is that before, new arrivals ( Polish airman after 2WW for example) would learn the language and the history of their host country and integrate. This creates a language of shared experience for all the groups. The absence of a one culture approach ( everyone keeping their heritage of course ) is causing huge damage. Teachers on their own can do little to halt this without some central support regarding the culture syllabus.
There is a lot stake here and in Europe so you need to step up your game on quality research.

I am employed in the Baltimore City Schools Systems here in Baltimore Maryland. I work in a school where we have been on the chopping block for quite sometime. Our last year of operating as a school has been slated as 2020. We work in an area of property compared to areas in underdeveloped countries and yet we attempt to deliver wraparound services to our school, community and staff.
We want to remain open as a community school where we continue to assist the community with Afterschool activities, food bank and mental health services for the school.

Who is the intended audience for this? I’m only a 4th year teacher and I had to turn off the video about collaborative planning because it was offensively basic. Having a lesson objective? Preparing materials in advance? Please! That’s a given and doesn’t even begin to address the challenges of creating an inclusive classroom.

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