Including both Regular Educational Students and Special Educational Students in Inclusive Classrooms

2350 words (9 pages) Essay in Education

18/05/20 Education Reference this

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Including both Regular Educational Students and Special Educational Students in inclusive classrooms to Promote Academic and Social Success

Abstract

 Students interacting with each other and feeling as if they are part of the group builds positive learning environments for children to grow academically and develop maturity. Children learning how to accept each other, learn with each other, and get along with each other is a crucial part of the academic process. Albers Elementary School is a small school in Ohio. There are 20 regular education classrooms, and one special education classroom that has five teachers in the room. The fourth grade students identified with disabilities in reading, writing, and math can’t fit in the corner of a special education classroom. But why should they have to? The regular classrooms are large enough to contain all students.

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 Structure and stability among students with disabilities is essential for student growth. Visual “hooks” and classroom visual aids could also impact learning for these students (Swanson, 2005). Could inclusion, a process of teaching students with disabilities in the regular education classroom, be the answer? Maybe children with special needs could learn from typical peers they share a classroom with, or be engaged with the students in the regular education classroom, and both could benefit from interactions with each other.

 There are many benefits of an inclusive classroom. The benefits could include academic success and social growth. “Special-needs students in the regular education classrooms do better academically and socially than comparable students in non-inclusive classes/resource rooms” (McCarty, 2006). Students with disabilities in the regular education classroom will become part of the classroom’s community, observe peer role models, and acquire communication and motor skills within a regular education setting (Wilson-Younger, 2009). The amount of time spent in the regular education classroom can vary depending on the student’s educational needs. There are different levels of classroom inclusion. The students do not need to follow an “all in” or “all pullout” situation. Instructional decisions and strategies can be differentiated, depending on the academic needs of the students.

 Pulling students out of the classroom is not always a negative concept for the student. It can be beneficial for some students too. One positive is when the instruction needs to be modified to meet an individual student’s educational needs (Woodward, 2009). However, it is noted that this is most effective in a quiet educational setting. Sharing a special educational classroom with five fellow teachers would not be a quiet educational setting for the students. Pulling students out of the regular educational classroom may also be justified if a regular educational classroom teacher has a negative attitude towards including students with disabilities in their room, or if there is lack of training to the regular classroom teachers (Wilson-Younger, 2009).

 Teachers and students are like cowboys and cattle on a ranch. Teachers represent the cowboys, and students represent the cattle. Teachers take care of their cattle by keeping them herded together and not allowing any cattle to wander away. Teachers brand their students by leaving a permanent educational marks on them that can last a student’s entire life. Teachers are dedicated and stay with their students throughout their entire school year. Teachers worry about their students, and try to protect them from any harm they may encounter. It’s the teacher’s job to ensure each student reaches the market (goal)! Just like working on a farm, a teacher’s job has been around for years; it’s the how a teacher’s job gets accomplished that has changed over the years.

Theoretical Frameworks

 An inclusion educational setting would work with the use of a student-centered design. Students are able to actively participate in learning activities that are based on their lives, educational needs, and interests (Ornstein, p.197). The student’s teacher can provide their class opportunities to explore physical, social, emotional, and logical knowledge. A special education student, regardless of what their disability is, could become involved with regular education students based on what they are interested in and what previous knowledge the students have attained.

 A student-centered design could incorporate the ideas necessary for all student success in an inclusion educational setting. One should consider this approach by looking at the philosophical approach of progressivism. Progressivism encourages student cooperation and democracy. This would allow students to talk about what they are learning and how they feel would be the best strategies for them to learn. The teacher would then become the “leader of group activities” (Ornstein, p. 47). Considering this approach, students with disabilities could benefit from making the content interesting and relevant to their educational needs. Dewey expressed the importance of real-life tasks and challenges. With this in mind, the teacher could teach math lessons by figuring out how long it would take to get from one place to another, or by learning capacity by following a recipe. Ideally, students with low academic ability would be paired or grouped with students of average academic ability. This type of cooperative learning group has proven to be the most effective for the low achieving students. An inclusive educational classroom could allow special education students with disabilities to interact with regular education students. In the end this could encourage peer learning in a regular educational setting.

 Along with progressivism, the psychological approach of constructivism can be very valuable. The students can become actively involved in the educational processes of thinking and learning. The student will be the key player and internalize information being taught. As learners begin to understand more, they bring a world of knowledge into their cognitive process. Progressivism and constructivism promote active learning in the educational setting. The central idea around this theory is to make sure students are engaged and conscious of learning environments. (Ornstein, p.129) This could ensure that all students, regardless of ability or educational setting, will be successful.

 To aid in the students philosophical approach and psychological approach, one must consider using Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences to ensure student success in inclusive educational setting (Ornstein, p.126). Students within the inclusive educational classroom can have various disabilities and learn in different ways. The regular educational teacher could identify how each child learns best and then be sure to use strategies that include the strengths of the students. Using these intelligences will also allow the students to move around the classroom and conduct hands-on activities in inclusive educational setting. Using multiple intelligences combined with the ideas of progressivism and constructivism would benefit students with disabilities that are active learners in the inclusive educational setting.

 An inclusive setting for students with disabilities would also benefit the typical students in the classroom. With regard to social education, the teacher could teach the students how to interact and get along with each other in spite of their educational differences. Patience, collaboration, and finding strengths within each student would teach them how to learn about respect, dignity, integrity, and compassion/understanding for others in the classroom. Pulling special education students out of the inclusive educational classroom and “hiding” them all day in a self contained resource room does not allow the disabled students to feel like they have anything to offer. It makes the special education students want to hide their differences, and impedes on their sense of self worth. Working with all people and getting along with other despite differences to reach a common goal will prepare all students for situations they will be faced with throughout their life. This again holds true with the philosophy of progressivism. Progressive curricularists emphasize the social processes (Ornstein, p.91).

Additional Research

 Research has also proven academic and social success in all students who are in an inclusion setting. In one study, researchers studied students and staff from a magnet school in the expressive arts in Florida. A regular classroom teacher and a special education teacher worked together to teach all the students in the inclusive classroom, regardless of ability. The findings proved that with regard to academic achievement, all of the special education students showed improvements in reading, and all special education students showed improvement in math – except one. All but one regular education students made gains in reading, and 8 out of 10 made gains in math. It was also noted that social skills in all students showed strong gains. The teachers expressed learning from each other, such as ways to differentiate instruction and implement accommodations, was very beneficial to the students. Both teachers reported feeling as though they had a “better understanding of the scope and sequence of the general education curriculum and methods for problem solving” (Nevin, et.al., 2008). The co-teachers were able to ensure extra time and help for students with disabilities, but at the same time, stay with the regular education students so they didn’t get left behind.

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 Research has also indicated that pulling special education students out of the regular classroom can lead to disconnected instruction and wasted time traveling (Vaughn, 1996). The isolation of a pull-out/resource room classroom can help students forming appropriate social relationships with their non-disabled peers. This prevents students from “becoming dependent on their parents for social opportunities, recreation, and occupation” (Smoot, 2004). Lipsky (2005) also reminds educators that the separate special education classrooms has led to disturbing outcomes, such as “high dropout rates, high unemployment rates, and lack of integration into the community.” Much research has also highlighted the importance of professional development for classroom teachers who teach special education students (Zarghami, 2004).

Needs Analysis

 My observations were conducted in the different inclusive and special educatgion classrooms that I have worked in, due to the lack of space in the special education classroom. The students I serviced were fourth grade students with disabilities in reading, writing, and math. Most classes included twenty students ranging in disabilities and academic levels. Seven of the student were on an IEP, which means the special education teacher needs to modify/accommodate each child’s needs. There were no visual aids for the students to view, unless the teacher brought them along. The students had five laptops to share. The students were scattered around the room or worked in groups most of the time.

 During my time of observation, I observed that many students were mildly below average with regard to academic ability. Only a few were more severe with regard to academic needs and ability. Students worked well in groups, which were usually led by the regular education teacher and special education teacher. Students were familiar with the routines established by the teachers. The students were accepting of each other and felt free to share ideas and discuss concepts. The students felt as though they could answer questions or discuss ideas without fear of others making fun of them or penalizing them for a wrong answer. The atmosphere in the inclusive classroom was very warm and open for all students to engage.

 Many of the lessons followed a structure as well. The students were introduced to an idea as an entire group, and then practice was given with the opportunity to ask questions. After this, students were split up for additional practice. The teachers walked around asking questions, providing immediate feedback, and ensuring the students were understanding the concepts being taught.

Conclusion

 Students with disabilities can benefit from being in inclusive classrooms with their non-disabled peers for many reasons. It is definitely an advantage to include special education students in the regular education classroom if possible. Working together using various learning strategies has a positive impact on all students, regardless of ability. This impact is one of academics and social value. At Albers Elementary School there are two problems facing the special education teacher; space and peer collaboration. Both of these issues could be solved by having the special education teachers and regular education teachers work together to service all children, regardless of ability, in an inclusive educational setting.

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