Creating an Inclusive Education (for all)

Paul Main

How can we create an inclusive education experience where everyone can thrive?

What is Inclusive Education?

Inclusive education means every child must get education in the same educational setting. Inclusive education offers real learning opportunities to the groups that have traditionally been excluded – these include not just disabled children, but children of minority groups too. In this article, we are going to explore the idea of inclusion by design. This means, providing a quality education for everyone, including children with learning difficulties. We sometimes have a narrow approach to learning that unintentionally excludes a minority of the classroom. By incorporating ideas such as cognitive load theory, we can create learning environments that everyone can thrive in.

A successful inclusive education occurs through an acute understanding, accepting and caring for students' emotional, social, academic, cognitive and diversity in education.

What is the aim of an inclusive education?

The main objective of an inclusive education environment is to make sure that each student gets equal opportunities and is treated fairly. In an inclusive education setting, student uniqueness and student diversity are observed without discrimination.

Key elements that pupils are mostly discriminated against are their household income, race, disability, gender, or the language they speak. Inclusive education aims to fight discrimination against every student.

Unfortunately, there are still examples of children's discrimination on basis of their unique traits. No students must be segregated or ostracised due to their difference in learning abilities.

What are the key features of inclusive learning processes and teaching?

The way to create an inclusive education environment differs between schools and situations. But, there are some key issues to keep in mind while creating an inclusive classroom plan. These include:

  • Each pupil gets an equal opportunity to gain mainstream education;
  • Classrooms include pupils of mixed abilities;
  • No child must be separated from regular students due to unique characteristics;
  • Classroom activities must take into consideration every child's unique learning journey;
  • The classroom should have an accessible environment (e.g. alternative approaches to lesson content for pupils with hearing issues)
  • Support must be offered to all the students to help them achieve their full potential.

What makes inclusive education so important?

Diverse and welcoming inclusive environments can increasingly improve the well-being and education for students. Below are the features that make inclusive education so important for everyone:

1. Student Confidence

When all the students get the opportunity to sit together and be a part of the same class, they are more likely to feel belongingness and participate in positive peer interactions. But, there are instances when some disabled students may need extra support away from the rest of the students, like after school classes to understand specific concepts. In this case, partial inclusion in education may work better than sending children to special schools.

2. Improved Communication Skills

An inclusive classroom offers a better opportunity for all students to communicate with the other students. In the case of segregation, students' social circles become much smaller, and they do not get enough chances to interact with students with different abilities. In an integrated classroom, pupils can interact with students of a wide range of abilities. This allows them to adapt to a higher level of social interaction and enhance their communication skills. Also, this will prepare them for professional life after school.

3. Quality of education

All children deserve equal access to education. By providing an inclusive education environment, it can be assured that each student gets the same level of education. Lessons must still be adapted to the requirements of all students. Differentiated learning opportunities help to fulfil the needs of each student’s educational needs, improve their learning outcomes and allow all the students to reach their full potential.

Scaffold challenging tasks with Writer's Block

Implementing inclusive education in the classroom

Inclusive educational practices can be advantageous for many students. Therefore, it is important to do social justice and give every student a fair chance to gain basic education in the right and inclusive educational environment. Following are some of the ways to implement inclusive education in the classroom.

1. Cooperative Learning

An effective way to create an inclusive setting is to present activities and tasks in a way that facilitates cooperative learning. When students learn in groups, everyone in the class gets the opportunity to participate. While planning group work, the teacher may create fair groups rather than asking students to pick themselves. Cooperative learning provides an opportunity for the students to express their feeling more freely, receive constructive and useful feedback, and offers better opportunities to respond.

2. Specialised Training

Education administrators must provide teachers with professional development opportunities to create the best possible learning and inclusive education environment. Special education professionals offer training and courses relating to human diversity or inclusion, that can be very effective for acquiring strategies, techniques and tips. Training and courses in student issues such as SEN (special educational needs) for children with disabilities, critical issues with trauma awareness, or ASD (autism spectrum disorder) may prove very useful. These courses enable teachers to deal with the struggles that pupils may be facing.

3. Adapted Lessons

Traditional teaching is not always sufficient for students with learning difficulties or visible disabilities. Inclusive education systems must modify the curriculum to make lessons more versatile and to accommodate all the students. One may do this by keeping students engaged by designing more immersive lessons. It can be done by adding more pictures and videos into lessons, involving object-based learning or educational games to improve student engagement. According to an independent study, many students learn while playing, and this can be an engaging way to increase students' interest in lessons. Recapping topics or reteaching lessons is a tremendous way to help learners that may have a difficult time understanding lesson content. In inclusive schools, special needs and inclusive education is provided to the children with disabilities or those facing difficulties in education. These children can be provided with extra textbooks or worksheets to recap lessons at home.

4. Know Your Students

To implement inclusive education in an inclusive school classroom, teachers must know their students. It takes little time to create a bond with the students. An independent study reveals that inclusive systems provide opportunities for the students to share their critical issues, struggles and interests with the teacher, which develops a bond that may keep on growing. Some teachers arrange a meeting with the parents to know more about any student. It is suggested to think and apply only those strategies that worked in the past. Investing little time to know the students has a huge impact on students. In inclusive education systems, the simple act of addressing each student with a name shows care.  

Address learning difficulties with visual scaffolds
Address learning difficulties with visual scaffolds

Applying inclusive education concepts

An ethical and inclusive education environment leads to a healthy and happy classroom. In the field of education, teachers aspire to uphold optimal classroom settings, and one of the most suitable ways to do so is through implementing inclusive education. Inclusive practices in the classroom prepare students for contemporary issues by improving student confidence and building better communication and academic skills. Therefore, special education professionals must apply the most important strategies to implement inclusion in the classroom, such as cooperative learning, specialised training, and adapted lessons. If your school is interested in embracing instructional concepts that are inclusive by design you might want to explore the following.

Graphic organisers
Graphic organisers

Writer's Block

This colourful learning tool helps children organise their ideas outside of their heads. By using visual building blocks, children are able to 'park their thoughts' in an external place. This distinctive approach alleviates the pressures on the working memory and helps children communicate more effectively.

Graphic Organisers

We know that our minds like to organise information visually and a graphic organiser helps learners to put plot out their thoughts prior to any written work. This structure enables students to create meaning and think in a nonlinear way. This technique has particular implications for children who might not have English as their first language.

Universal Thinking Framework

This frameworks provides classrooms with a clear language for learning. It enables students and teachers to talk about the process of learning more effectively. The simple iconography acts as a signpost so children can understand what is being asked of them. The cognitive stepping stones ensure that no child gets left behind and you bring your whole class with you.