Learning and Assessment in Inclusive & normal Classroom

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Inclusive education means children with disability and without disability and young people learning together in ordinary pre-school provision, school, college and university with appropriate net work of support. Inclusive education is an approach that looks into how to transform education systems in order to remove the barriers that prevent pupils from participating fully in education. It also means that the pupils should smoothly participate in all walks of life and to work with mainstream institutions to the best of their abilities and needs. Schools should accommodate all children regardless of their physical, intellectual, social, emotional, linguistic or other conditions. Inclusive education seeks to address the learning needs of all children and youth with a specific focus on those who are vulnerable.

Rationale

Our schools and culture focus most of their attention on linguistic and logical-mathematical ways of teaching. We admire the highly articulate or logical people of our society. Unfortunately, many children who lack to show high ranked performance in these two don't receive much reinforcement for them in school. Many of these kids, in fact, end up being labeled "learning disabled," "ADD (attention deficit disorder," or simply underachievers, where as their unique ways of thinking and learning aren't addressed by a heavily linguistic or logical-mathematical classroom. They show gifted in a different way of thinking and prove themselves as the artists, architects, musicians, naturalists, designers, dancers, therapists, entrepreneurs, and others who enrich the world in which we live.

All children (and adults too) - whether 'normal' or 'special' due to their attitudes and/or due to lacking of physical or mental abilities - possess different kinds of minds and therefore learn, remember, perform, and understand in different ways. We all are able to know the world through language, logical-mathematical analysis, spatial representation, musical thinking, use of the body to solve problems or to make things, an understanding of other individuals, and an understanding of ourselves.

These differences challenge an educational system that assumes that everyone can learn the same materials in the same way and that a uniform, universal measure suffices to test student learning. Indeed, as currently constituted, our educational system is heavily biased toward linguistic modes of instruction and assessment and, to a somewhat lesser degree, toward logical-quantitative modes as well. Students learn in ways that are identifiably distinctive. The broad spectrum of students - and perhaps the society as a whole - would be better served if disciplines could be presented in a numbers of ways and learning could be assessed through a variety of means.

It has been proved through research (es) that people possess a set of abilities or intelligences - and not just one type and level. Historically, and amazingly a perception that still persists among many people and institutions and systems today, ability/intelligence was/is thought to be measurable on a single scale: a person could be judged - supposedly - to have a high or low or average intelligence; or a person would be considered 'intelligent or 'unintelligent'.

Many schools, teachers, and entire education systems, persist in the view that a child is either intelligent or not, and moreover that the 'intelligent' kids are 'good' and the 'unintelligent' kids are 'bad'. Worse still many children grow up being told that they are not intelligent and are therefore not of great worth; (the "you'll never amount to anything" syndrome is everywhere).

The fact is that we are all intelligent in different ways.

On the other hand, if we observe our society as a whole, many very successful and fulfilled people in life were also judged to be failures at school - brilliant scientists, leaders, writers, entertainers, sports-people, soldiers, humanitarians, healers, religious and political leaders - all sorts of happy, fulfilled remarkable people - they too were judged and labeled otherwise according to a very narrow definition of what constitutes intelligence.

It is therefore, we must instead rediscover and promote the vast range of capabilities that have a value in life and organizations, and then set about valuing people for who they are, what they can be, and helping them to grow and fulfill their potential, which, in fact is the role of a teacher or a school..

Research (es) has also proved that all inherent and innate intelligences are not necessarily dependent on each other, these seldom operate in isolation. Every individual - normal or even special - possesses varying degrees of abilities / intelligences, but the ways in which these combine and blend are as varied as the faces and the personalities of individuals.

For this reason, researchers believe that it is important to encourage children to explore and exercise all of their capabilities / abilities/ intelligences. Creating a rich, nurturing, and stimulating environment filled with interesting materials, toys, games, and books lays the foundation for healthier, happier, brighter children!  Students who have these kinds of experiences know many ways to learn almost anything!

Learning through a variety of unique experiences allows children to better understand themselves as lifelong learners, and to see how others acquire knowledge and apply their skills.

Children and adults with disabilities or not, can be labeled as under in accordance with their predominantly exhibited abilities / intelligences:

Word Smart (Linguistic intelligence - using words effectively. These learners have highly developed auditory skills and often think in words. They like reading, playing word games, making up poetry or stories. They can be taught by encouraging them to say and see words, read books together. Tools include computers, games, multimedia, books, tape recorders, and lecture.)

Number/Reasoning Smart (Logical-mathematical intelligence - reasoning, calculating. These learners think conceptually, abstractly and are able to see and explore patterns and relationships. They like to experiment, solve puzzles, ask cosmic questions. They can be taught through logic games, investigations, mysteries. They need to learn and form concepts before they can deal with details.)

Picture Smart (Visual-Spatial intelligence - like to draw, do jigsaw puzzles, read maps, daydream; can be taught through drawings, verbal and physical imagery. Tools include models, graphics, charts, photographs, drawings, 3-D modeling, video, videoconferencing, television, multimedia, texts with pictures/charts/graphs.)

Body Smart (Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence - use the body effectively, like a dancer or a surgeon. Keen sense of body awareness. They like movement, making things, touching. They communicate well through body language and be taught through physical activity, hands-on learning, acting out, role playing. Tools include equipment and real objects.)

Music Smart (Musical intelligence - show sensitivity to rhythm and sound. They love music, but they are also sensitive to sounds in their environments. They may study better with music in the background. They can be taught by turning lessons into lyrics, speaking rhythmically, tapping out time. Tools include musical instruments, music, radio, stereo, CD-ROM, multimedia.)

People Smart (Interpersonal intelligence - understanding, interacting with others. These students learn through interaction. They have many friends, empathy for others, street smarts. They can be taught through group activities, seminars, dialogues. Tools include the telephone, audio conferencing, time and attention from the instructor, video conferencing, writing, computer conferencing, E-mail.)

Self Smart (Intrapersonal intelligence - understanding one's own interests, goals. These learners tend to shy away from others. They're in tune with their inner feelings; they have wisdom, intuition and motivation, as well as a strong will, confidence and opinions. They can be taught through independent study and introspection. Tools include books, creative materials, diaries, privacy and time. They are the most independent of the learners.)

Nature Smart (Naturalist intelligence - natural environment. These learners learn rapidly and perfectly by exposing themselves with nature such as in parks, open spaces, in jungles, along sea side etc)

Afterwards two abilities / intelligences are added:

Spiritually Smart (Spiritual/Existential intelligence dealing with religion and 'ultimate issues')

Moralistically Smart (Moral intelligence dealing with ethics, humanity, value of life)

(Note: The first eight intelligences are measurable, we know what they are, what they mean, and we can evidence or illustrate them. However the potential additional human capabilities, perceptions and attunements, are highly subjective and complex, and arguably contain many overlapping aspects. Also, the fact that these additional intelligences could be deemed a measure of good or bad poses.)

Strategy (how to apply this approach in a classroom having 'normal' and 'special' students altogether)

If a teacher is having difficulty reaching a student in the more traditional linguistic or logical ways of instruction, he/she may try several other ways in which the material might be presented to facilitate effective learning. Whether you are a kindergarten teacher, a graduate school instructor, or an adult learner seeking better ways of pursuing self-study on any subject of interest, the same basic guidelines apply.

For example, a topic in one of social studies classes dealt with the seasons in Pakistan and seasonal fruits. The children and teacher write a poem on fruits (word smart); sing this poem with rhythm (music smart); some design and produce colourful fruit masks (picture smart), each child choose her/his favourite fruit, put on a mask (number/reason smart), and play a fruit role (body smart). The children work in groups (people smart) on the topic and do some reading and writing (self smart) as well. Make a visit of some fruit garden (nature smart).

A similar approach may be used for the topic 'Occupations in our community'. Children name the different occupations, imagine and role-play what they would like to be, discuss them in groups, read stories about them, and play a game matching pictures with tools.

An other example, if you're teaching or learning about the law of supply and demand in economics, you might read about it (linguistic), study mathematical formulas that express it (logical-mathematical), examine a graphic chart that illustrates the principle (spatial), observe the law in the natural world (naturalist) or in the human world of commerce (interpersonal); examine the law in terms of your own body [e.g. when you supply your body with lots of food, the hunger demand goes down; when there's very little supply, your stomach's demand for food goes way up and you get hungry] (bodily-kinesthetic and intrapersonal); and/or write a song (or find an existing song) that demonstrates the law. 

You don't have to teach or learn something in all eight ways, just see what the possibilities are, and then decide which particular pathways interest students the most, or seem to be the most effective teaching or learning tools. This way of teaching/learning is so intriguing because it expands our horizon of available teaching/learning tools beyond the conventional linguistic and logical methods used in most schools (e.g. lecture, textbooks, writing assignments, formulas, etc.). To get started, put the topic of whatever you're interested in teaching or learning about in the center of a blank sheet of paper, and draw eight straight lines or "spokes" radiating out from this topic. Label each line with a different intelligence. Then start brainstorming ideas for teaching or learning that topic and write down ideas next to each intelligence (this is a spatial-linguistic approach of brainstorming; you might want to do this in other ways as well, using a tape-recorder, having a group brainstorming session, etc.). Teaching can change from something that is done by individual teachers to a collaborative, collegial endeavor in which the entire faculty works and grows together. This philosophy enables teachers too to change the dialogue with students' parents.

Word Smart: Remembering names of fruits & their place of origin

Picture Smart: Drawing masks of fruits & identifying them through pictures etc

People Smart: Through discussion groups & dialogue

Nature Smart: By visiting garden or by through model in classroom

Body Smart: Through role plays on fruits

Number Smart: Through mask labeling & numbering them according to seasons

Fruits in Pakistan

Self Smart: Through reading & writings on fruits

Music Smart: Through making & singing poem on fruits

This approach is also known as "child-centered"; educators begin by looking at how the child learns and then work to develop curriculum, instruction, and assessment based on this information rather than a "curriculum-centered" approach where educators bend the students to fit the curriculum.

Overcoming the barriers

Signs in the halls, explanations on student work that is posted, weekly letters from the teachers and principal, parent education evenings, student portfolios, exhibitions, and performances and framing parent-teacher conferences around the intelligences all contribute to parents understanding.

Teachers, often with justification, fear that more parent communications will lead to more parent criticism. And all too often, when teachers do try to involve and educate their students' parents, the parents do not respond. To these hesitations, the above said approach facilitates teacher-parent communication. Parents who are critical of schools are often so because they are wary. Simply put, they aren't sure that their child is learning and when parents view their children's progress through a 'multiple abilities/intelligences lens', however, the gains are quite obvious. By reviewing the contents of a child's portfolio, for example, or by attending student presentations and performances, the gains are clear and striking.

Assessment

There is also a dire need to introduce different types of assessments for evaluating how students learn, what they know and are able to do, and what kinds of experiences will support their further growth and development. Students should be assessed in the domains of academic excellence along with analytical & decision making skills incorporated with indigenous moral value system.

Note: The views and contents of this article have been derived from interviews & articles of/on Dr Howard Gardner and his theory 'Frames of Mind'.We can achieve all this by changing school based present examination system / pattern. Students should not be merely checked against their rote-learning but they should be assessed separately for their reading capabilities, listening & writing skills, concept clarity of what they have been taught and for the comprehension of knowledge which has been imparted during the academic session. By separating these skills it is expected that the vision of the student would be broadened as they will feel free to read, write, memorize and comprehend the information imparted. For this, MCQs, Right-Wrong, True-False & Yes-No options, word matching, short & long essay writing, creative writing, story writing with the help of pictures & words along with many more alternatives may be tried to assess the children during and at the end of academic session.

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