Inclusion Classroom Tips for New Teachers
Inclusion encompasses the concepts of equality of opportunity and equal access for all learners in schools. If a school is fully inclusive every child or young person in its care, irrespective of gender, ability, race, ethnic or cultural background or other factors, is able to enjoy the full spectrum of opportunities offered by the school in order to reach his or her potential.
The modern understanding of inclusion is a much broader concept than is often recognized by teachers. It goes far beyond work with learners who have special educational needs, which the concept grew out of.
For schools to be able to declare honestly that they are inclusive they need to be prepared to work at the whole school and the classroom level. Even then, being inclusive is more about a process than an end point.
There has been a move in recent years to educate as many children as possible in mainstream schools, unless their needs mean that this is impractical. This has required teachers to respond to an ever more diverse population within their classrooms.
A central tool to address inclusion is to identify potential barriers to progress. These are factors that may be preventing a child or young person from achieving his or her potential. They could include behavioural factors, a disability or learning difference, a language barrier, a cultural difference, or a whole raft of other factors.
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Once barriers have been identified, measures can be introduced that will allow you to help learners overcome them - these come in many forms and guises. Key to success is working fully with the child or young person.
The successful inclusion of a child or young person into a school comes about through an effective partnership between that person, his or her parents/guardians and the teacher and leaders at the school. If one of these parties is not committed to the process, then it's likely to be an uphill struggle.
Inclusion is most effective when it is supported at a whole school as well as a classroom level. While there are many things that individual teachers can do in their classrooms, these are not likely to have the desired impact if teachers are working within a whole school climate that does not cherish inclusion.
Classroom teachers striving to become more inclusive in their work should begin by clarifying what an inclusive classroom would look like. The next step is to identify potential barriers to progress for individual learners, followed by implementing measures to try to ensure that these barriers do not prevent any individual from reaching his or her potential. Finally, these measures need to be reviewed at regular intervals.
Becoming a more inclusive classroom teacher requires you to think about the inclusivity of your classroom layout, resources used and teaching and learning techniques. All these factors can provide barriers to progress for individual learners.
A further tool that can be used to plan and implement actions for particular learners is the Individual Education Plan (IEP). This document helps to clarify potential barriers to learning and sets out what the school and others will do to help the learner to thrive.
Teaching assistants can be used very effectively in classrooms in order to enhance inclusion - from working with individual learners to adapting materials or instructions in a way that makes them more accessible for key groups.
- How inclusive is your classroom? What criteria are you using to come to this judgement?
- What can you do in order to ensure that you embrace inclusion issues as you plan lessons, teach and give learners feedback on work?
- To what extent has your school developed an up-to-date view of inclusion, that goes beyond the simplicities of the past?
To do list
- Write out your definition of what inclusion means to you in the context of your classroom.
- Identify the challenges that exist in embracing inclusion in the subject(s) you teach. Share this with your school's inclusion coordinator.
- Consider what other professionals working in your school can offer to help you make your classroom more inclusive - for example, teaching assistants, learning mentors, support staff.