Inclusion has become a major policy for the majority of schools all over the world. The concept that all individuals deserve equal rights and opportunities in life and in how they acquire their education has increasingly gained popularity over the years which has led to the wider acceptance of the inclusive education. Although the inclusion agenda is often faced with several challenges, it ultimately proves beneficial not only to special needs students but to the schools and the whole society. However, it is critical to note that inclusion is not restricted to the school environment, rather it involves the fundamental change in the manner in which the schools as well as the communities address and support the needs of the special needs individuals.
On the hand, the school environment plays a major role in the successful promotion of inclusive education and as such, the inclusive education practices that are utilized in the classrooms have to be efficient and effective so as to accommodate the needs of the diversity of the all the students in the classroom. Subsequently, various techniques have over the years proved useful in accommodating, addressing and supporting the majority, if not all, the needs of a diverse classroom. Special needs students have great potential; though, this potential is not exploited due to the use of ineffective and mainstream teaching practices. However, with the inclusive education practices, in the classrooms, special needs students can tap into their diverse talents enabling them to be valued members of the society.
A major inclusive education practice gaining popularity is the use of an integrated curriculum. An integrated curriculum is based on the idea of addressing a variety of subject areas by utilizing a unifying factor. For instance, an educator can set up multiple learning stations in a classroom where the students, disabled and non-disabled alike would go from one station to the next in learning a unifying concept from a perspective of various subjects. This method when utilized properly can have numerous benefits such the promotion of teamwork and by interacting with their disabled peers, it can lead to the elimination of stereotypes and the non-disabled students can quickly and easily realize that their disabled peers disability does not constitute inability.
On the other hand, this inclusive education practice is limited in that it can only be optimally effective for physical disabilities and would prove less effective for severe emotional and behavioral disabilities. Integrated curriculum in the case of severe emotional and behavioral disabilities can, at the extreme, cause the promotion of stereotyping, as well as frustrations from the non-disabled students as the severe disabilities, would result to more time spent on a single concept which mild physically disabled and non-disabled student would have got at the first or second go at it. Subsequently, Integrated Curriculum can be time-consuming and as such would require a lot of support from other teachers as well as the administration. Consequently, the lack of support for such inclusive initiatives has been a major challenge to inclusive education, thus the use of an integrated curriculum although very effective to the inclusion objectives, is faced by major challenges in its implementation.
Cooperative learning has also been proved to be a very effective inclusive education practice. Cooperative learning entails the assignment of students in an inclusive classroom to various heterogeneous ability groups. These groups are also assigned facilitators that coordinate the group and ensures all the members of the group actively participate and contribute. In a classroom with various students with varying disabilities, such groups would be changed periodically. This change in groups ensures that all the students in the class are familiar with each others abilities and shortcomings, thus it becomes easier for the students assist the teachers in coming up with better strategies that cater to everyone in the classroom. As a result, cooperative learning also ensures the formation of genuine and productive relationships between nondisabled and their disabled students. Furthermore, by periodically changing the make-up of the groups, the facilitators will, with time know the needs of all the students in the classroom, thus will adapt classroom learning activities in a way that caters to all the students.
However, as with the majority of the inclusive education practices, cooperative learning is also resource intensive, requiring the inclusive classrooms to have as many facilitators as the groups formed for a group without a facilitator would lead to challenges with the ordination of the group which would ultimately lead to the neglect of the needs of the less active members of the group. Furthermore, this inclusive education practices can only be optimal for physical disabilities and not suited for severe behavioral and emotional disabilities. Teachers and students attitudes also play a major role in the implementation of cooperative learning. Teachers and students as well must have a positive towards disabled students in the classroom. Incidents have been witnessed where student openly abused disabled students and claimed they did not them in their classes. Such situations prove to be a huge barrier to inclusive education as a whole.
The use of differentiated instruction is another popular inclusive education practice. This practice involves teachers in an inclusive classroom adapting teaching instructions so as to meet the needs of the diverse learners in the class. This practice thus prioritizes the differences of the students and differentiates instructions according to the students readiness. As such the practice of differentiated instructions requires that the educators be flexible in order to be in line with the changing needs of the students while at the same time providing content that is powerful, relevant and interesting to all the students in the classroom. Furthermore, for the successful implementation and execution of differentiated instruction, it is critical for educators to design learning activities that put into consideration learners individual needs with the intention of identifying the necessary adaptation, modifications, and accommodations to be made for the educational success of all the students. Consequently, this practice enables teachers in an inclusive classroom to make connections between what the students know and what they are learning.
Closely related to differentiated instruction is the use of differentiated assessments. A major objective of inclusive education is the equal opportunities for all students while at the same time considering the capabilities of individual students. As such, inclusive education dictates that assessments in an inclusive classroom should be made based on the diversity of the classroom as opposed to assessing all students using a single uniform assessment tool. Thus, the use of differentiated assessment is critical for the success of an inclusive education. This education practice dictates that students are assessed according to the ability level, in recognition that not all students learn and acquire knowledge at the same pace. Hence the objective is to ensure that there is progress no matter how small it might seem. Thus, by utilizing differentiated assessment, educators in an inclusive classroom are able to assess, more specifically, the progress of each special needs student on each subject thus identifying the students strong areas as well as identifying the areas that need improvement by providing continuous feedback to individual students. Furthermore, teachers in different inclusive classrooms can discuss the strategies that best meet the special needs students which in turn they can provide policy makers thus helping the whole inclusive education sector.
However, on the further analysis of the inclusive education practices, it becomes apparent as stated earlier, that inclusive education is an extremely resource intensive sector. As a major concern of inclusive education is that no two students are the same, numerous resources, the right attitude and support are required to identify and meet the needs of individual students in an inclusive education. For starters, teachers in an inclusive school must have comprehensive knowledge on a variety of disabilities so as to able to deal with such students in an efficient way. Additionally, school administrators must be willing to support inclusive practices, that is not limited to only allowing special needs students in mainstream schools but rather supporting and implementing policies and strategies proposed by educators of inclusive classrooms. Support has, over the implementation of inclusive education, been a major challenge that most teachers face. Subsequently, administrator support and proper training are in no doubt crucial factors in the proper accommodation of all students in a classroom regardless of their ability as the teachers are confident in their skills and knowledge to handle and meet all the needs of all students in a diverse classroom. Additionally, they are confident that they have the full support of the administration. It is only through such measures that the resources necessary for the successful implementation of inclusive education practices can be attained.
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