Supporting Successful Student Learning Through Effective Inclusion

Effective inclusion of students by educators lead to effective learning for students.

Inclusive education has been an area of passion that has slowly developed in all these years of teaching. Sometimes, a liking or passion for a subject comes on account of several reasons:

  1. A person knows about the subject and has developed a heightened understanding of the same through years of academic work, experience and research
  2. A person undergoes difficulties either as personal experience or knows someone close going through the difficulties
  3. A person takes interest in the subject having seen it being practised and come across some individuals

My first encounter with inclusion happened during my earliest teaching experience in an International School. This child was visually impaired, and the principal made all attempts to make it inclusive for this child including the physical infrastructure of the school. Several of my high school students became writers for this child during his final examinations and I went out of the way to accommodate the needs of this child so that he could write his exams with the help of the senior students. To date, I get emails from the father who keeps me updated about the child’s (a grown-up man now) progress. Counsellors, special educators, and therapists happen to be amongst close colleagues in every workplace and learning from seeing them work with students with special needs have taught me a lot. The selfless work, and effort that they put in giving students and parents hope, direction and the ability to handle academic and other issues with a sense of purpose and direction are commendable.

Most mainstream teachers feel that Inclusion is the responsibility of those few teachers from the counselling sections of the schools, in schools that are privileged to have such special sections. Given that a child in the classroom works with teachers across various subject areas, it is important for subject teachers to work with counsellors or special educators to develop some strategies in the classrooms for inclusion. In order to do so, one needs to understand the types of disabilities and the needs of the children. 

Inclusion can happen in several ways and in varied forms. Inclusion means all children in the same classroom in the same school irrespective of social backgrounds, disabilities – both intellectual and physical. In India, with our cultural backgrounds and diversity, inclusion on the basis of ethnicity, culture and socio-economic backgrounds has been tried to be addressed through the ‘Right to Education Act ’ (RTE). I am not going to delve into this article from the perspective of RTE as that is a subject much written about. 

Inclusive classrooms are all about respecting the contributions of all students and allow diverse groups to foster in a mutually symbiotic manner. Inclusive schools have all the stakeholders – students, teachers, leadership, parents all understand the needs of others and work at all levels as a close-knit community. Such examples of schools are far and few but not rare. There are more and more progressive schools working towards an inclusive community. 

For the purpose of simplicity, this article will look at how schools can be more mindful of students who are gifted, have special needs both intellectually and physically to a certain extent and make the classes inclusive to accommodate their needs. Let’s look at ways in which we can build an inclusive school community.

  1. Championing Inclusion in schools: School leadership and teachers should accept the inclusion of all forms and promote the same. More than anything, it is important for schools to address and educate parents about the needs of these children. More often, there is parental pressure for the child to perform well academically and a high focus on academic grades. 
  2. Generating Awareness: The need for recognition and acceptance. If teachers can recognise the red flags in a child having learning difficulties at an early stage, interventions can begin early for better action. Early interventions, work best, as is the case, slow and steady wins the race. I have had students with extreme learning difficulties get into Ivy League colleges, due to recognition and awareness.  Even in the case of Gifted learners, teachers often fail to understand the disinterest of the students in the class and often mistake it for in-discipline and arrogance. If such students’ needs can be recognised at an early stage – strategies like higher-order worksheets, self-paced lessons, curriculum crunching can be adapted in the classrooms.
  3. Teacher Professional Development and Capacity Building: Most schools and teachers, often lack awareness of the needs of the students and treat every child in the same way – ‘one size fits all. If teachers are aware of the developmental milestones at every stage and are able to recognize the gaps between verbal responses of a student to the written response, lack of handwriting clarity, fidgety fine and gross motor skills movement – this can come in handy for both the teacher, student and parent. Schools need to invest in teacher professional development and awareness in these areas.
  4. Sustainable practices and Support: Working with students with special needs – gifted or with learning difficulties has to be a year on year support with a gradual emphasis on building the student support department in the school. This is very reflective practice and schools must build upon their experiences to work on the best practices to build a robust support department. It also means, that there may be schools that are unable to have the facilities of the special educator or the special needs department but can make the subject teachers aware of the needs and build in systems around the same.
  5. Adapt to technology: Today technology has leveraged for everything that we do and the Pandemic has changed the way we use technology. So why not use technology in a manner that works best with the students. Students with special needs are known to be adept at technology and it can reduce issues of reading, lack of good handwriting and many more challenges.

In conclusion, it is time that we are more aware of Inclusion in our classrooms and creates more learning opportunities for students who have traditionally been ignored or disregarded due to their intellectual or learning abilities.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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