Over the last 7 million years, the human race has made significant progress. We’ve come a long way from having stone and brick homes to developing jets that can take us across the world. Indeed, we are far better and way more advanced than our ancestors in every aspect. We have easy access to all necessities our predecessors had to work day and night for. From food, shelter, electricity to means of travel, the quality of our lives has drastically improved. And the one element we must thank for all this development is nothing else but education.
The need to make education inclusive
What is education? Education is what separates us from the dumb and makes kings out of commoners. It is the sole factor that creates sophisticated societies, develops virtues, and provides us with a sense of independence. Without it, humanity would be at the same place it was a millennia ago!
Education and acquiring knowledge are, therefore, inherent rights of all humans across the globe. Regardless of their socio-economic backgrounds, race, ethnicity, or abilities, children deserve equal access to educational opportunities. Even today, children from different cultures and those with learning and physical disabilities are overlooked in educational policymaking. These kids face discrimination and stigma on an everyday basis because of the failure of policymakers. As a society, we must bridge this gap to ensure everyone has access to an inclusive educational environment.
Simple ways to encourage inclusivity
Creating an inclusive learning environment for children starts with each classroom. General and special education teachers with a doctorate in educational leadership must work hand in hand. Together they can nurture a space where every child feels supported, seen, and heard. That said, we have compiled a list of a few simple ways to encourage an inclusive learning environment for your ease.
- Promote a positive ambiance
Creating a positive working environment is crucial to enhancing student learning. To establish a welcoming atmosphere, greet all students on the first day of class. Make it a habit of arriving at class 10 minutes before time. You can utilise this opportunity to chat with each student individually and learn more about them than just their name.
Even informal conversations can turn into more personal chats as the semester progresses and foster a healthy student-teacher relationship. Having an emotional connection with the students based on mutual respect can enhance their class participation and enthusiasm.
- Utilise a variety of instructional formats
Every student has a unique style of learning and absorbing information. Teachers must employ diverse methods of teaching to ensure no student feels left behind. Some students are visual learners, while others best grasp information when presented orally or via text. Some students understand best when a combination of both is used.
For example, you can utilise the whiteboard to demonstrate a topic while explaining it verbally. Or you can create a simple PowerPoint presentation with relevant diagrams and pictures to play in the background as you speak. By using multiple media to present information, you can ensure each student learns at their level best.
- Use a universal design of learning
UDL is a set of principles based on the idea mentioned above. According to the UDL approach, there are three areas each teacher needs to focus on:
- Representation – the ‘what’ of studying
- Action and expression – the ‘how’ of studying
- Engagement – the ‘why’ of studying
To encourage focus amongst students, students must be aware of precisely what they are studying and why this particular lesson is essential. Establishing a list of long-term goals is crucial as it defines what students will be working to achieve. As an educator, you can even create specific goals for each lesson. This way, students will know what targets they need to meet.
- Give students creative freedom
Traditional classrooms have only one way of doing an assignment, like an essay or a worksheet. But UDL approach suggests students should be allowed to complete a task whichever they please, as long as it meets the lesson goals. For example, a student interested in technology can express their ideas through a film, podcast, or presentation. At the same time, someone with a knack for art can draw a comic strip. Giving students a little bit of creative freedom can enhance their interest in the subject and encourage class participation.
- Use flexible working spaces
UDL supports flexibility in a working environment. This means each student has the freedom to choose how and where they want to study. Some prefer studying in groups and learn best by engaging with their peers. Others like a quiet space to tune out the noise and focus on the learning material.
- Take feedback
Students should get regular feedback on how they’re doing in class. When individuals know what they’re doing right, they’ll be encouraged to work harder and keep up the progress. At the same time, students who are lacking will know which areas require more work.
However, feedback goes both ways. Teachers must conduct regular sessions where students can voice their opinions and express how they feel about the learning environment. Only then can teachers work on their shortcomings and proceed to ensure the comfort of every student in their class.
- Equal learning materials
We must keep in mind that not all students have the same access to information. While privileged students can go on the internet to learn, some don’t have that option. To encourage classroom equity, learning materials should be made accessible to all students. They should be provided with access to the internet, library, printing and so on. Some students take more time to learn than others. If any student requires extra assistance, they should be offered time after class to help them better understand the lesson.
Creating an inclusive learning space takes time and patience. The journey starts within the classroom but must also be in a broader scope. It requires implementing specific strategies and policies, keeping in mind children from all races, ethnicities, and social backgrounds. Moreover, it requires a change in perspective and mindset that should be shared and encouraged by teachers, students, and the school administration as a whole.