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Organisations working within the learning and skills sector face increasing challenges as the UK becomes more diverse and multicultural. Differences are an asset and a diverse learner body and workforce enrich an organisation. However, misunderstandings, negative attitudes, or a lack of awareness, understanding and effective communication can all lead to segregation and underachievement.
Exploring these resources and using and adapting the ideas they suggest will help you to: ensure no learners are isolated or marginalised through language, culture or any other difference that may influence thoughts and actions or form a barrier; work towards eliminating discrimination and harassment; recognise and accommodate learners' individual needs; ensure that all learners have equal access to the curriculum; explore how the 10 pedagogy approaches can promote understanding about inclusion and inclusive practices.
Please note: The term 'inclusion' has been used in most instances, however 'diversity' has also been used when describing actual individual and group differences, particularly relating to cultural diversity.
The skills I will need to ensure my practice is inclusive are the ability to work with colleagues to review the inclusion challenges in my own organisation, the ability to plan sessions that promote active learning and provide assessment opportunities that are accessible to all learners, the ability to develop materials and resources that are accessible to all learners and accommodate their needs and the ability to identify the varying needs of learners and to provide the support or adjustments necessary.
The knowledge I will need to ensure my practice is inclusive understand the range of inclusion challenges for teachers, managers and learners, an understanding of the strategies, tools and pedagogy approaches that support a whole organisation approach to inclusivity, understanding of the materials and resources that enable equal access to learning and assessment and how to adapt them and the understanding of how learners can take responsibility for their own learning.
Teachers need to recognise the impact of using new technologies for learning. Interactive White Boards (also known as 'Smartboard' or 'Promethean' Boards) are touch sensitive and usually designed to be used in conjunction with a computer/ data projector. This technology offers most of the features of a marker-board or chalk-board, an overhead projector and has the additional opportunity to save work that would otherwise be lost, give members of a group copy of their collaborative work, access the Internet for web based material, including film footage and images from across the world, to share with a whole class.
The improvements in 'assistive technologies' particularly communication devices (for example: voice recognition software, and converting text to speech) have increased the opportunity for people with impairment and disability to participate in study programmes.
Mobile technologies are increasingly important with reduced amounts of time for face-to-face teaching. Subsequently there are demands upon teachers to develop autonomous learners and the materials for independent study.
Mobile communication technologies offer a portable and individual learning and teaching experience. The learner can access material at a time and place that is convenient to them, and repeat the experience as frequently as they wish. The opportunities to communicate with teachers and colleagues in different ways and in different places increase the likelihood that the learner will stay on programme and complete their course.
Learners are generally adept at using a range of new technologies.
Teachers need to ensure that they at least keep pace with change. The mechanics of Information Communications Technology have become integrated into the (particularly youth) culture. MSN, text messaging and e-mail, Skype and telephone/ video conferencing are well understood. The teacher should integrate this new technology into their planning and interactions with their learners. Why write something down when you can take a photo, or record a learning experience on a mobile phone? Why undertake research by trawling through paper-based material when you can 'Google it'? Why attend a lecture when there is the opportunity to listen to a podcast. Why meet together when you can participate in a webinar, forum or blog.
Social networking sites where groups can be encouraged to communicate in virtual space - sharing information, ideas and keeping in touch with each other and their course organisers. These sites have become increasingly sophisticated in recent times and now offer the opportunity to exclude those who do not have a legitimate reason to access the learning environment. The advantage of a social networking site over a virtual learning environment (vle) attached to a specific website is that you can have both public and restricted access, it can be accessed remotely - away from the local area (school or college for example) also learners can be global rather than geographically restricted.
The teacher may need to adapt resources so that they reflect the wider community and your own learner groups. During your evaluation of commercial resources you may find that they are not age appropriate, the images are not a true reflection of your own learners or do not reflect their personal interests or learning aims.
Learners find resources motivating when they can recognise the relevance to themselves and relate to the individuals in the case studies or visual images.
Ensure that the resources you use offer positive images of people and places. In this way learners increase their awareness of the contribution (and value) of all countries and people to global knowledge and world economy. This challenge overrides the suggestion that equality and diversity are only appropriate when your learners match the profile.
Resources can really help you to meet your individual learners' needs and thus provide differentiation. Some learners will need additional practice or exposure to embed their learning or their skills. The challenge for the teacher is to design resources and learning activities that offer this consolidation opportunity without the learner feeling that they are just doing more of the same thing.
The teacher can tackle this challenge through devising a resource that has a number of stages. The learner needs to repeat basic skills or draw upon initial knowledge so that they can move on to new skills and knowledge.
Some learners will assimilate learning very quickly and need extension and enhancement exercises and activities. In this situation the teacher can support and encourage the learner to work through their programme more quickly, or give them the opportunity to broaden their learning experience. Resources offer the opportunity to accomplish either of these outcomes.
It is risky to assume that a certain colour of paper or type/ size of font will suit all individuals with a certain disability or impairment so when possible ask the learners what they need.
Teaching and learning resources can be developed to support inclusion by ensuring the learner has the opportunity to adjust the font and font size, the background colour of their work or the handouts and paper based material that you provide.
Page format can have a powerful effect on learners. The use of 'white space'; literally the ratio of text/ images to blank paper on a page can affect inclusion.
Generally it is recognised that learners on introductory and lower level courses prefer less text on a page in comparison with more experienced/ higher level learners.
Pages of text can be broken up with appropriate pictures, symbols and diagrams or boxes where learners are expected to contribute their findings or thoughts.
Pages of text can also be organised under sub-headings and short paragraphs so that they are easier to use as the learners can more easily navigate the material.
The use of SMOG or Fry's Readability Test can help teachers check their vocabulary is at an appropriate level when developing written resources such as handouts and supplementary information.
You can provide learning resources that are adapted to suit varying levels of ability, through adding stages - for example scenarios that have different levels of complexity and so offer the opportunity for more detailed solutions. Card games can be developed from an initial matching game with a word, phrase or picture and a corresponding label then a definition, appropriate use, cost, supplier, source, and so on.
The use of real world examples is a powerful resource for learners. Using artefacts relevant to their subject or industry helps increase motivation and improve confidence - as well as improving competence. It is important that learners are able to recognise and work with equipment that the learner is likely to use in the work place and is of industry standard.
All resources must comply with Health and Safety requirements; using resources found in the industry helps the learner to develop safe working practices during their training that can then be directly transferred to the workplace.
Resources help teachers to broaden their teaching methods. A learner-centred 'walk in' activity (quiz, word search, scenario) at the very beginning of the session gives the teacher time to organise other resources including logging on to class-based technologies (for example: Interactive White Board), take a register of attendance and confirm or organise groups if necessary. These resources encourage learners to organise their thoughts and personal resources as soon as they enter the learning space. It also supports a prompt and relevant start when there may be late arrivals. It is not appropriate to disadvantage learners that managed their time and arrived at the start of the session by suggesting that they wait (doing nothing) for the rest of the group to arrive!
It can be of particular benefit in encouraging autonomous/ independent learning.
Creating a framework for group work for example where learners have a writing frame to capture points of importance or relevance to the learning. Providing a selection of resource materials or web-addresses keep the learners focussed on authoritative sites that are relevant and therefore save the learners' time.
The teacher can act as supporter, adviser and guide - enhancing the learning opportunities.
Teachers can use resources to provide an experiential teaching and learning environment - providing a set of problems for learners to diagnose and solve.
Resources can provide an opportunity for teachers to demonstrate a skill or technique with an opportunity for the learners to develop their own competences through guided imitation and practice.
Using a Moodle or Virtual Learning Environment (vle) offers the opportunity to access resources and learning materials at any time. Learners can communicate with each other and their tutors. This provides access to personalised learning, particularly for learners who cannot access traditional modes of learning or who find that they are working at a different pace.
In each instance the teacher has planned the session and prepared the resources - once the learning has been initiated the teacher needs to manage the learning from a distance; stepping back to observe learning in action and providing assistance and enhancement as required.
The use of resources can also help with classroom or workroom management resulting from increased opportunities for learner participation in their learning and the teacher more directly involved with individuals and small groups.
No-one enjoys using resources that are out of date or look old, tired and worn. The teacher should think about how to maintain their resources.
Paper, particularly coloured paper and card should be kept away from sunlight so that it does not fade or yellow. Care should be taken to protect edges and corners too. Marker pens, glue, blu-tac, sellotape, scissors, straight-edge or rulers need to be checked regularly and discarded if they are no longer fit for purpose.
CD/DVD memory sticks and SD cards are used to store resource material. None of them are full-proof against damage and therefore care needs to be taken to make sure that they are kept appropriately.
Developing a system for cataloguing your resources, whether held in a computer memory or a physical resource can save time and frustration when under pressure to find a specific artefact. It also gives the impression that you are organised and competent in your role, this increases learner confidence in your ability as a teacher.
Some resources will have a 'use by' date - this needs to be identified and acted upon. Some resources need regular maintenance (PAT testing for electrical equipment for example).
Ideas for resources can be triggered from many sources, not just the obvious resource banks and specific commercial outlets. Bookshops and toy stores, equipment manuals and websites all offer the opportunity to trigger ideas. By applying your own creativity to the knowledge of your subject and your learner groups you can adapt resources that are designed for different target audience.
If you set yourself a target of developing or adapting a new resource every two months you will soon have a personal resource bank to draw on that will enrich and enliven your teaching.
If you plan and share resource development with colleagues you can increase the number of resources available to you. Colleagues do not need to be teaching exactly the same curriculum subject to provide valuable material, an imaginative approach enables the teacher to integrate material into their own subject.
The learners themselves can provide you with resources whilst embedding and enriching their own learning. Planning a session so that members of the learner group pose questions or scenarios to other members of the group requires research of relevant questions and accurate answers. When mixed with an element of competition this can create a very valuable and lively activity.
Recognising your strengths and development needs is an important aspect of resource development and design. There are 4 key principles that need to be applied here:
The teacher's language and literacy skills - accuracy in spelling and punctuation is important for the credibility of your resources and to help your learners to develop their skills too.
The teacher's awareness of stereotyping and discrimination - some resources when critically examined (even some recently developed) fall short of anti-discriminatory practice. This may include gendered or discriminatory language, negative images or stereotypical roles. You need to be able to recognise these when they occur and then address and eliminate them before use with learners.
Please see appendices for working and on-going resources used in my professional CPD.