Inclusion: What is inclusion? Lecture
This chapter will address several of the central questions around the concept of inclusion, but will be focused firstly on providing a broad definition of it as a principle, then on unpacking some of the key elements of that concept. Key aspects of inclusion are identified and discussed with detailed reference to practice, policy and legislation, and key educational theory. We will go into detail about various different aspects of inclusive practice which should be considered in the modern classroom, and will endeavour to offer practical advice alongside more academic theorisation of these central issues. Throughout the chapter, advice will be given on how you can reflect on your own practice and your understanding of these issues: doing this will help you to improve continually, which will benefit you and your learners.
Learning objectives for this chapter
By the end of this chapter, we would like you:
- To understand and be able to explain clearly what 'inclusion' means
- To understand what 'inclusive practice' is, and how it differs from 'inclusion'
- To identify different types of learning needs and begin to understand how to accommodate them
- To critically evaluate and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of different levels of inclusion
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What is inclusion?
Inclusion is an educational philosophy which states that learners should not be isolated from the 'mainstream' because they have special educational needs (SEN); instead, all learners should learn alongside one another, with adjustments being made wherever necessary to accommodate the specific needs of individuals.
Inclusion is viewed as a critical component of good practice: after all, "student performance and behaviour in educational tasks can be profoundly affected by the way we feel, we are seen and judged by others. When we expect to be viewed as inferior, our abilities seem to diminish" (Wilkinson and Pickett, 2010, p.113). In an inclusive environment, learners are able to work towards individual goals while being a part of a broader community and feeling included in the life of the classroom. Inclusion can be defined as 'the commitment to educate each child, to the maximum extent appropriate, in the school and classroom he or she would otherwise attend. It involves bringing the support services to the child ... and requires only that the child will benefit from being in the class (rather than having to keep up with the other students)' (Rogers, 1993, p.1).
Inclusion can be split into two sub-categories: partial inclusion and full inclusion. Full inclusion involves removing the distinction between 'general education' and 'special education' entirely; schools are restructured and adjustments made so that all pupils learn together. This type of arrangement is quite rare, as it can be extremely challenging to structure a school so that all learners remain together regardless of their needs, particularly where there are learners with more acute needs. Partial inclusion is the more familiar version of this in mainstream education; it allows SEN learners to stay in a mainstream environment for any content or provision which is appropriate for them, but they may be removed for individual engagement with relevant professionals (e.g. speech therapists) so as not to disrupt the classroom's overall learning dynamic. Levels of inclusion can vary greatly depending on level of study; whereas schools are under a significant pressure to evidence inclusive practice and adjustments for individuals' needs, Higher Education institutions have been deemed 'among the most discriminating institutions' (Morgado et al., 2016, p. 639). Ultimately, it is vital for all institutions of learning, and all practitioners at an individual level, to ensure inclusion is promoted to allow learners to achieve the best possible outcomes.
There are a range of critical opinions on the principles of inclusion: for the most part, it is viewed as positive and is promoted in current educational discourses, but it does have its critics (which we will explore later on in this chapter).
If you are currently undertaking a placement or working full time in education, find your institution's Inclusion policy. If you are not yet working in an institution, try to find one from a local establishment. Read through it and highlight any key words.
- Is your institution fully inclusive or partially inclusive? How do you know this?
- Does your institution have any special provision for learners with particular needs? List any examples that you can think of. These may not necessarily be outside of mainstream classrooms.
What is inclusive practice?
Inclusive practice is an approach to teaching which considers and subsequently implements strategies to support the diversity of learners in any given cohort. Its aim is to minimise barriers to learning which may impact upon an individual's ability to achieve to their full potential, and many practitioners believe that it enhances the learning experience for all learners. The term is used to denote the principle that teaching practice should be responsive to the differences between, and the resultant needs of, learners to ensure the best outcomes for their progress. This also means actively working to eliminate discrimination on any basis, removing barriers to learning as far as possible for all learners, and challenging any negative stereotypes which may be expressed in the learning environment. Inclusive practice is not necessarily the same as inclusion - indeed, in practice, inclusive practice may merely uphold the philosophical ideas behind inclusion rather than promoting actual practices of it. The extent to which inclusive practice actually demonstrates inclusion is dependent on a number of factors, including the resources of the institution, the level of training of the teacher and the specific needs of the learner in question. Practicing inclusively requires a teacher to have appropriate and high expectations for each learner. This involves ensuring that a child's potential is not underestimated - for example, assuming that an SEN child is not capable of achieving a certain standard on a piece of writing - while also maintaining a realistic standard that is achievable for the learner. Setting too high a standard can result in feelings of failure for the learner if they do not achieve it.
Inclusive practice overlaps with many areas in terms of aspects of learning or areas of need which should be considered and actively provided for, most of which align with the protected qualities under the Equality Act (2010) - race, gender, sex, sexual orientation, disability, age, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, religion or belief. Its aim is to ensure that none of these characteristics (among others which may arise) present a barrier to a learner achieving as much as they are capable of, and that there is no unjust discrimination against an individual based on any of these factors. It also aims to ensure that the most able pupils are sufficiently supported alongside those who require more structured or intensive support to be successful: the process of supporting abler pupils is known as 'Stretch and Challenge', and feeds into the inclusive principle of having high expectations for all learners.
Differentiation is a term which frequently appears in discussions of inclusive practice. Differentiation is the process of adjusting teaching practice - and the individual lesson plans, schemes of work and learning resources within that - to meet different levels of ability, engage with different learning styles and to maximise engagement across a diverse student population. Inclusion, as discussed, is more closely connected to ensuring that all learners have equal opportunities to learn regardless of their needs, which may necessitate reasonable adjustments. The distinction between differentiation and inclusion can be a thorny topic: all students must have equal opportunities to achieve, but supporting the learners most in need of assistance could result in failure to stretch and challenge the most able learners through lacking the time to develop their skills effectively. Realising that learners have diverse needs, and making concerted efforts to cater to them, is fundamental to good practice; the methods through which a teacher does this will necessarily vary widely depending on learners.
Inclusion itself focuses on integrating and embracing learners who have specific learning needs. Inclusive practice takes this as a basis for teaching all learners, promoting values of tolerance, acceptance and kindness alongside making adjustments for particular needs.
Think back to the last lesson you participated in. List three ways in which you showed inclusive practice. If you can't think of three, list three ways you could show inclusive practice if you had the opportunity to participate in the session again.
- What kind of needs did you accommodate?
- What did you do well? How do you know this was successful?
- What could you do better? Why do you think this would be helpful in future?
SEN learners: mainstream vs special schools
Special Educational Needs (SEN) can be defined as any learning difficulty or disability which results in a child finding it harder to learn and progress than other children of the same age. There are a set of established categories for SEN recognised by the government:
- Specific learning difficulty
- Moderate learning difficulty
- Severe learning difficulty
- Profound and multiple learning difficulty
- Behavioural, emotional and social difficulty
- Speech, language and communications needs
- Hearing impairment
- Visual impairment
- Multi-sensory impairment
- Physical disability
- Autistic spectrum disorder
(Department for Education, 2011).
When discussing the issue of inclusion, SEN is generally the first element that springs to mind. Learners who do have SEN are equally as entitled to a high-quality education as their non-SEN peers are, and adjustments to schools and classrooms' practice should be made to accommodate this wherever possible. SEN needs span an enormous range of conditions, which can be integrated into mainstream classrooms with various degrees of ease. Dyslexia, for example, is almost universally supported within a mainstream classroom; some more severe forms of intellectual disability can make full participation in a mainstream classroom environment extremely challenging and potentially not in the best interests of the learner.
Initially, for an SEN child to be admitted into mainstream schooling, various conditions had to be met regarding 'the mainstream's ability to ensure the child received the educational provision his or her learning difficulty called for while also ensuring the efficient education of others with whom she or he would be educated and the efficient use of resources' (Department for Education and Skills (DfES), 2001, p.1). However, it was acknowledged by the government that this was open to interpretation and sometimes abuse, which ultimately resulted in pupils who may have 'benefitted from inclusion [being] denied access to mainstream education' (DfES, 2001, p.1). This was gradually altered and evolved; now, SEN provision is protected under the Equality Act (2010), which prohibits discrimination based on a multitude of factors, including disability. Inclusive practice is an important tool in ensuring that inclusion for SEN pupils is successful, and this has wider-reaching impacts than simply in the classroom. A school is, under current Ofsted inspection guidelines, unable to reach the 'Outstanding' grade boundary unless they can evidence that 'the progress across the curriculum of disadvantaged pupils, disabled pupils and those with SEN currently on roll matches or is improving towards that of other pupils with the same starting points' (Ofsted, 2015, p.57). The level of esteem that inclusion is held in has gradually grown, and now it is a cornerstone of educational practice.
The term 'SEN' encompasses a huge array of different conditions and needs that a learner may experience, which may be very different in terms of the ways that education and capacity for learning is affected. Certain common difficulties or problems can be consistent across a variety of needs; for example, Engert and Thomas (1987) found that SEN children lacked sensitivity to text structures, in comparison to non-SEN peers.
In some cases, mainstream education is simply not appropriate for a pupil's learning needs. SEN learners who are prone to behaviours which risk either their own personal safety or the safety of other learners are prime examples of this. Resources for SEN learners can be limited within school settings, and certain needs can be more effectively met by specialists who are intensely educated on particular types of SEN.
Jake, a learner with Down's syndrome and some of its associated behavioural difficulties, has been in mainstream provision since Year 1: he is now in Year 7 at a new secondary school. While he is sometimes settled in the classroom, he becomes frustrated in his mainstream classroom 3-4 times a week on average. When this happens, he displays a range of behaviours including physical violence towards other pupils and the teacher, self-harming behaviours, screaming, swearing and damaging other people's property. This often results in the need for the teacher to evacuate the classroom. The teacher has worked with specialists, teaching assistants and Jake's family to try and support him, but has accessed all of the support that is available within their institution and there has been no significant change in Jake's behaviour or in his progress. His parents were determined that he should succeed in mainstream schooling, but can see that he is not thriving in the current situation and that this is now impacting on both his own education and that of the children in his class.
Jake's struggles in his mainstream setting mean that he is not achieving his potential, and his struggle is now impacting on the learning of his classmates. This means that Jake is not meeting Rogers' (1993) stipulation that inclusion is the best route only if 'the child will benefit from being in the class' (p.1). As a result of this, his parents decide to examine the options regarding Jake transferring to a special school which can support his specific and unique needs.
Situations like this can trigger debate regarding whether or not inclusive practice is enough in all cases to ensure that complex needs of SEN learners can always be met. While the principle of inclusion is undoubtedly noble, in practice, there can be complications - sometimes the best and most productive outcome for the SEN learner is to accept Special Educational provision. The government have emphasised their support for this notion in previous Green papers, stating that 'no one type of school placement (such as full inclusion in mainstream provision, special schools, or specialist units in a mainstream setting) is the most effective at meeting children's SEN' (DfE, 2011, p.20). Making this decision will always be as a result of careful consideration from a multitude of professionals, as well as the wishes of the SEN learner and their parents/carers.
It is vital to recognise that every SEN learner is different, and consequently, the solutions that we apply should be unique to that individual and their personal needs: only by doing this can we ensure that we assist each learner to reach their full potential. There are, however, common issues that arise across the spectrum of SEN, and building a kind of 'toolkit' of strategies to cope with this will assist you in practicing inclusively.
SEN learners are frequently integrated into mainstream lessons, meaning that you will almost certainly need to plan for and support SEN learners at some point in your teaching career. It's important to have an awareness of SEN and develop a toolbox of techniques that you can use to support SEN learners' needs.
- Why is it important that SEN learners are not made to feel that they are different from other learners in their class? Consider your own personal experiences with SEN learners, if you have any.
- Considering your answer to the above question: what kind of techniques could you use to make sure that SEN learners do not feel singled out? How could you do this while also making sure they receive the support they need?
- List three changes you could make to your sessions on a regular basis to accommodate different learning needs.
'Learning needs' is an umbrella term which encompasses a vast amount of possible needs. These may include more 'traditional' barriers one would think of, such as learning difficulties, learners having English as an additional language or physical disabilities which may make the learning process more difficult. However, a range of other issues could also be considered to fit under this category, such as behavioural, emotional and social problems (different from those which would be classed under the SEN category), poverty, familial issues, mental health conditions or cultural differences, insofar as any of these begin to impact on an individual's learning. This part of the chapter will focus on the kinds of needs which are not classified as SEN, as these have already been unpacked in the previous section.
While behavioural, emotional and social difficulties can be classed as SEN, there may be learners experiencing these issues for other reasons (reacting to a stress or stimulus in their lives, rather than due to an inherent learning need). There are numerous situations a learner may experience outside the classroom which may cause them to struggle with their learning: divorce, bereavement, abuse and bullying are a handful of common examples. Learners from an English as an Additional Language (EAL) background also must be considered; while they may not have any SEN needs, and theoretically have the ability to achieve on a par with their non-SEN peers, care must be taken to ensure that a language barrier does not prevent this.
'Socio-economic needs' refers to any issues relating to the home life or background of a learner and their impact on the learner's classroom life. These can vary widely depending on factors including: the level and age range of learners; issues with or between caregivers, such as divorce; abuse (be that physical, emotional, sexual or financial); relationship or spousal (even marital, in FE or HE contexts) issues; parental responsibilities and childcare; or other caregiving responsibilities, amongst others. A lack of money can also present barriers, particularly in today's age of technology. Teachers are encouraged to promote the benefits of technology to their learners, but a potential issue may arise if a particular learner has no access to these resources: for example, if a teacher sets homework which requires use of a computer, a learner who cannot access one at home is disadvantaged.
Cultural difference is something which should be appreciated and celebrated; however, there are instances where it can be something of a barrier to learning in the classroom, and it is important to minimise this wherever possible. It is important to be aware of such differences, including challenging our own cultural assumptions as practitioners, and to take these into consideration when evaluating any pupil.
A tutor born and educated in the UK might consider that behaviours related to engagement include eye contact, nodding and asking questions: however, a learner raised in a different culture may consider that eye contact with an authority figure is disrespectful, therefore avoiding it. A misunderstanding of this cultural difference could lead the tutor to wrongly assume that the learner is disengaged.
Issues in subject matter can also arise in many areas: for instance, the teaching of sex education would need to be handled sensitively to accommodate cultural or religious beliefs of learners who do not believe in sex before marriage. These kinds of issues can arise in widely diverse contexts which can be largely subject or age specific; teachers should use their knowledge of their particular discipline or the age group of their learners to plan efficiently so that any friction between syllabus and cultural identity is handled sensitively, minimising the likelihood of negative outcomes.
Ultimately, catering to each learner's learning needs is a deeply individual process, and what works for one learner has no guarantee of working for another. The issues outlined in this chapter are not exclusive; there could be any number of other situations which arise that require an inclusive approach to ensure that the learner is not disadvantaged. The key is a supportive and creative outlook in finding a solution.
As we have discussed in the content for this section, some learning needs may not be immediately obvious. However, as teachers, we are still under an obligation to support learners who are experiencing them.
- What might the warning signs be that a learner is struggling?
- How could you approach the learner in a supportive and inclusive way?
Equality and Diversity
While the term 'inclusion' is most frequently used to refer to dealing with the needs of learners which need to be catered for, as discussed above, it should not be disregarded that there are other elements of inclusivity which are universal and can be built into every session. Doing this enables inclusion to function more effectively, as everyone in the learning environment is primed to accept and celebrate difference.
Equality and Diversity are two vital elements of day-to-day inclusive practice. While these two terms are frequently seen together, they are distinct and should be treated as such: 'Equality' refers to ensuring that all learners are provided with equal opportunities to learn and are not disadvantaged by any personal factors (for example, gender, race, religion or sexuality, to name just a few). 'Diversity', however, refers to ensuring that every learner's differences are not only acknowledged, but celebrated and valued. The latter is far more concerned with an active promotion of tolerance and awareness of other people's differences, while the former is focused on ensuring that individual differences are dealt with to ensure they present no barriers to learning.
Romesh is an English teacher in a Further Education college - he tries to ensure that he promotes both equality and diversity in every lesson he teaches.
Some of the ways he does this include:
- Raising awareness of different religious or cultural events with posters on a notice board, which is displayed clearly in the classroom
- Openly addressing any sensible questions learners might have about his personal heritage, culture and religion (though he takes care to express that while they are his personal choices, they are not 'right' or 'wrong').
- Using examples in-class and in work set from different cultures: for example, asking his class to complete worksheets about Polish cuisine or about the Hindu festival of Diwali. They develop whatever skill they are working on that week (punctuation, sentence structure, etc.) and learn about diverse cultures, religions and lifestyles in the process.
- Challenging any offensive language or negative stereotypes that are expressed and turning them into an opportunity to correct misinformation. For instance, a learner negatively calls something 'gay', so Romesh emphasises the origin of the word as meaning 'happy' and points out that being gay is just as normal as being straight.
- Re-arranging the seating of his classroom for one session a week so that Katie, a learner with some mobility issues, can sit by the door, but still comfortably join in with group work and conversations.
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The classroom is a complex environment for many reasons: every learner brings different worldviews, baggage and internalised prejudices into it with them. To create a positive learning environment, every practitioner must promote equality and diversity - this can be achieved by conveying an appreciation of different cultures, religions and worldviews. This can also include using neutral learning materials (which do not make assumptions about learners' backgrounds, beliefs or cultural/religious associations) and making it clear that discrimination will not be tolerated in the classroom.
Equality and diversity can be perceived as contradicting one another; the former seemingly implies treating all learners 'the same', regardless of their status, while the latter focuses on celebrating difference. However, practicing equality is not treating everyone in exactly the same uniform way - on the contrary, this could mean failing to make reasonable adjustments to individual needs. Equality means working to carefully remove any barriers that are in place to allow people equal opportunities to succeed in a capacity that is suitable for them.
Inclusion is not just about catering to individual needs. It is also about making sure your classroom promotes core values such as tolerance and understanding, and ensuring that differences between people are actively acknowledged and celebrated.
- Look back to the example included about Romesh. First of all, which methods do you think promote equality, and which ones promote diversity? Is there any overlap?
- Next, choose one of Romesh's methods and consider how you might adapt and use it in one of your classes.
- Take a look at your most recent lesson plan. Write down one way that you promoted equality and one way that you promoted diversity.
Difficulties of inclusion
While the benefits of effective inclusion are clear, it is also important to acknowledge that inclusion can sometimes be challenging for both teachers and learners. The values of tolerance and equality are very important and should, of course, be imbued in learners, as this equips them for the 'real world' as well as making their education run more smoothly; however, the reality of a teacher planning and catering for an entire class of individuals with complex personal needs of their own is that some learners inevitably require more intensive attention than others to ensure they are progressing.
There are a variety of views on how far inclusion is viable: some argue that enforcing inclusion where it is not necessarily appropriate or in environments which are not equipped sufficiently can cause problems for both the SEN learner and the other learners in the situation. It is not productive to place a child in an environment where they fail to thrive, and therefore careful consideration of any individual's particular needs should be undertaken before making a decision about their educational provision. Inclusive practice in these extreme cases may have a very limited impact on the learner's wellbeing, as they may be better placed and thrive in a Special Education setting. Ascertaining whether or not this is the case will come down to careful evaluation of all factors in a specific learner's situation: as every learner's needs are individual, the solution must be equally individual.
In some cases, despite clear guidelines emphasising the importance of inclusion on both institutional and governmental levels, circumstances can mean that it is not actually in the interest of schools to provide full or extensive inclusion. Evans and Lunt (2001) cite a tension between governmental priorities as a primary cause of this: "conflicts in government policy between the 'standards' and 'league tables' discourse and the 'inclusive schools' discourse make it difficult for schools to become more inclusive" (p.1). In an increasingly results-driven culture, which pushes schools to compete aggressively with each other for funding and even for retention of control over their institution (failure to achieve certain standards can result in forced academisation), it is easy to see why SEN provision may be somewhat neglected in pursuit of 'academic excellence'.However, sometimes the limited availability of specialist SEN provision means that parents and carers have little choice but to place their children in mainstream education. Funding for SEN provision has been cut, making places in special schools harder to come by.
Other difficulties that may arise in implementing inclusion and practicing inclusively predominantly stem from the teacher not being fully aware of a learner's problems. In some cases, a learner's need may be 'invisible' and therefore harder to ascertain. In other cases, it may be that the teacher does not have adequate training or knowledge to best support a particular need.
Inclusion is not a one-size-fits-all philosophy. If we return to the quote from Rogers at the beginning of this chapter, we are reminded that inclusion is 'the commitment to educate each child, to the maximum extent appropriate […] and requires only that the child will benefit from being in the class rather than having to keep up with the other students' (Rogers, 1993, p. 1). If it is not appropriate for a particular child to be in mainstream provision, they should not be forced.
Inclusion is not always straightforward, and sometimes the needs of one can overshadow the needs of many in a classroom environment.
- Try to write a few lines in your own words about why this is problematic, and suggest three ways that you could work to combat this in your practice.
- Think of an example of when inclusion may not be the most beneficial way to support someone. What kinds of warning signs might you see if a learner is not coping in a mainstream environment? What do you think you could do to support them?
Inclusion is a central issue in current educational discourse, and throughout this chapter, we have discussed several of the most relevant subjects at the heart of it. This exploration should have made you realise exactly how wide and varied the range of needs you might encounter in your classroom really is. It's important not to be intimidated by a learning need you have not encountered before, though - instead, the best thing you can do is to research it. Over time, you will build a toolkit of strategies to support learners with various different needs, and can continue adding to it as long as you are practicing. The overarching ideas that we can ascertain are:
- Inclusion is at the heart of modern teaching practice.
- Inclusive practice is necessary to achieve a good standard of engagement and achievement from all pupils in a group.
- There are many different ways to practice inclusively.
We have also discussed the fact that, while mainstream inclusion should be strived for wherever it is possible and beneficial to the learner, sometimes specialist provision is the most suitable option. Ultimately, the solution should be as individual as the learner and their needs. Having said this, a commitment to the most inclusive environment possible is essential in modern educational settings. In the subsequent chapters of this module, we will discuss some of these elements in greater depth and make connections to both wider academic theory and to in-classroom practice.
Now we have reached the end of this chapter, you should:
- Have a good understanding of what 'inclusion' means
- Be able to identify different types of learning needs
- Be able to critically discuss the advantages and disadvantages of inclusionary practices at different levels
Now proceed to the 'hands-on scenario' portion of this chapter. Write a short answer to the questions posed there using what you have learned about inclusion and inclusive practice.
Department for Education (2011). 'Support and aspiration: A new approach to special educational needs and disability'. London: The Stationery Office.
Department for Education and Skills (2001). 'Inclusive Schooling: Children with Special Educational Needs'. London: DfES Publications.
Englert, C.S., and Thomas, C.C. (1987). 'Sensitivity to text structure in reading and writing: A comparison between learning disabled and non-learning disabled students.' Learning Disability Quarterly, 10, pp. 93-105.
The Equality Act (2010). London: HMSO.
Evans, J., and Lunt, I. (2002). 'Inclusive education: are there limits?' European Journal of Special Needs Education, 17.1, pp. 1-12.
Morgado, B., Cortés‐Vega, M., López‐Gavira, R., Álvarez, E., & Moriña, A. (2016). 'Inclusive Education in Higher Education?' Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs, 16, pp. 639-642.
Ofsted (2015). School inspection handbook: Handbook for inspecting schools in England under section 5 of the Education Act 2005. London: Ofsted.
Rogers, J. (1993). 'The inclusion revolution.' Phi Delta Kappan Research Bulletin 11, pp. 1-6.
Vincent, C., Evans, J., Lunt, I., & Young, P. (1996). 'Professionals Under Pressure: the administration of special education in a changing context.' British Educational Research Journal, 22.4, pp. 475-491.
Wilkinson, R., and Pickett, K. (2010). The Spirit Level- Why Equity is Better for Everyone (2010 ed.). London: Penguin Books.
'Hands on' scenario: Inclusive practice
You are teaching a Year Ten class and there are three learners who are struggling for different reasons.
Lucy has been diagnosed with mild dyslexia - she has been given coloured overlays to help her, but she says these don't make much difference and make her eyes hurt. She wants to be allowed to bring her laptop into school to do her work on, but your head of department feels this would be unfair on other learners and might distract her, as she has been known to access social media during lesson time on her smartphone. This refusal makes her reluctant to engage with the work in class, as she feels there is 'no point'.
Jason is very capable, and you are confident in his ability to achieve his predicted grade. However, he is having some difficulties at home: his parents are going through a divorce and are not on good terms, but cannot afford to live separately. This means that there are many arguments at home which last through the night sometimes, and he has informed you that the family computer has been sold to pay for legal fees, meaning he cannot do some of the homework tasks you have set for him.
Deana is a very keen learner, and very much wants to do well. She and her family moved to the UK from Portugal four years ago, and while her spoken English is very good, she still finds some aspects of written English - particularly grammatical aspects, such as articles and verb tenses - to be very challenging, which can sometimes dramatically affect the clarity of her work. She responds well to feedback, but is sometimes a little overzealous in seeking it. During class time, she approaches you several times per lesson asking you to check what she has done and point out any mistakes in English that she has made. You do not want to discourage her, but her need for help is beginning to take up a disproportionate amount of your class time, which is impacting on other learners.
What strategies could we use to ensure that we deal with the needs of these three learners in an inclusive manner?
As we have stated numerous times in this chapter, inclusive practice is not proscriptive, and each individual problem needs an individual answer. Fairness to all should be balanced with making individual allowances to ensure that assisting one learner does not disadvantage any others.
If the coloured overlays are not helping Lucy in the way they should, it is worth trying alternative methods - for example, printing work for her onto different coloured paper rather than using the overlay - to see if a solution can be found that meets her needs this way. Regarding the issue of the computer, it may be possible to compromise by using a school laptop with restricted internet access: this would allow her to type her work, as she feels would be easier for her, but would not allow her to take advantage of the situation by visiting any websites.
Jason's issue does not directly affect the ambience of the classroom, but ensuring that he is catered for certainly counts as inclusion. In this case, his socioeconomic background appears to be playing a part, evidenced by the sale of the family computer. There is little that you, as a teacher, can do to alleviate the family's stress, but assuring Jason that he can always come to you if he is concerned about anything may help him to feel supported. Recommending that he speak to the school counsellor, if he wants to, may also facilitate his seeking help with any emotional difficulties that the split is causing for him. The issue of the computer could be circumvented in two ways: either a regular arrangement to allow Jason access to a school computer (during break/lunch times, after or before school) could be negotiated, or any online learning materials which may be required to complete homework could be printed off and given to him in hard copy, as this allows him the same opportunities for completion as everyone else.
Deana's case is interesting - it may not seem immediately obvious that a learner who is very engaged might be an issue for a teacher. However, where one learner is disproportionately taking up a teacher's time, strategies are required. Deana's ESOL background means that she requires support with certain aspects that other learners are quite proficient in; given her attitude, it is likely that she would be receptive to extra support with this, so some 'Functional' English lessons could be arranged to help her fine-tune these skills. The support of a TA also might be employed if there is one available. Finding Deana outside help with the elements of English that she finds challenging will allow you, as the teacher, to focus on the subject-specific elements. If she persists in asking for detailed in-class feedback on her English, encouraging her to be more self-directed in her checking - e.g. providing a dictionary, finding the answer out and bringing it to tomorrow's lesson - would also be a good strategy.
These are merely suggestions: there is no one 'right answer' for solving the problems these learners are facing. The approaches suggested here are merely intended to demonstrate an inclusive mindset, and to evidence the need to think creatively to overcome any number of different barriers which may impact on learners' learning.
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