This is the second edition of a profound book. It is an important one for teachers, regardless of the demographic of their students. This edition reminds us to reflect on our own preconceived ideas, to think about our own values and ideologies – something we, as teachers, ought to do regularly. The expectation from the title is that it may offer a quick fix, but that is not the case. The first three chapters set up the scope of the book and at times it is somewhat wordy. However, it is worth persisting as there are gems to be garnered throughout, and because this is a complex world we deal with and “we cannot make the world simpler - rather, we need to understand something about the processes by which it has become more complicated.” (pp241) It is the world our students come from. The core of the book is “…the belief that all children can learn and that it is teachers who believe they can make a difference who do.” (p240) It then goes on to offer teachers the tools to continue, or learn, to make that difference. One doesn’t have to read the whole book in one go; the contents and index pages are user-friendly so it is easy to find the section which covers the immediate problem of a busy teacher.
Although mainly for teachers of students with noticeable disabilities, this book also provides insights into “challenging behaviour” for whatever reason. In chapter 10, the four main reasons for such behaviour – attention seeking, fear of failure, power and revenge – are elaborated. Using case studies, practical methods of dealing with such behaviour are offered. Teachers are not the only ones addressed however. Inclusive Education stresses that inclusive education is a whole school responsibility. The “range of stakeholders (students, teachers, leaders, parents, professionals, business owners, policy-makers and educational administrators), all of whom have different perspectives, needs and expectations of the school” (p112) – all need to have input into in an inclusive model.
This book is well laid out with the chapters containing explanations and case studies for many different situations to facilitate communication. At the end of each chapter the key terms are succinctly defined. There are lists of questions for discussion and reflection – very useful for an informal discussion, formal PD sessions or a “collaboration” (p112) meeting. Each chapter has suggestions for further reading. Not only are authors and books listed, but also useful websites. There are “useful forms” (p255) which can be photocopied or downloaded – action plans, daily planners, therapy plans, long-term goals, achievement records – to name but a few. An impressive bibliography follows. It could take one year's of reading to follow-up this highly recommended book.
Lois Best, Healesville, VIC
The 2nd edition of this text seeks to provide teachers with a sound understanding of current research into teaching children with diverse educational needs. The information is meticulously researched and presented with clear chapters addressing different aspects of teaching an inclusive classroom. This text addresses who children with 'diverse education needs' are, strategies to help develop individualised programs, how to manage the classroom and collaborative student learning, among other areas. The authors provide clear examples and strategies for managing an inclusive classroom program, as well as providing readers with a handy selection of useful forms to use when planning classroom activities. This would be a handy book to keep in a school's teaching resources library, or as a reference for individual teachers looking to improve aspects of their teaching practice.
Stefanie Galvin, Templestowe, VIC
Inclusive Education is an invaluable resource to have. It is practical and very user-friendly. It gives a definition of inclusion and defines the terminology and rhetoric surrounding inclusion. Inclusion is not just about students with disabilities it is about ESL learners, students with different cultural needs, gifted students, and students with developmental delay, but each of these needs is not addressed in specific detail, allowing you the freedom to adapt to your own particular setting. Thus, inclusion is ensuring that every single student in our classrooms, no matter what their learning needs, has access to the curriculum and learns to the best of his or her ability.
Inclusive Education has an extensive bibliography with reference to current research in the field. There are many website addresses listed to provide you with resources for further study so that you can pursue your own particular interests or find support materials for your own specific classroom situation. There are sample forms, suggested activities and unit planners. There are step-by-step instructions that are practical and easy to use in any classroom. This resource can be applied to all levels of learning, be it primary school, secondary school or even university.
Every teacher who is keen to learn more about inclusion, change the way they teach their classes or even help effect change within their school, should have this invaluable and practical resource.
Emma Pollock, Melbourne, VIC
This book is a comprehensive update from the previous edition, allowing the latest research to be displayed in a thoroughly modern manner. Websites enhance featured downloads, such as “Useful Forms,” and sites attached to an evolving bibliographical format. Both the Foreword and the Preface of this edition present arguments as to how teachers in today’s schools need to plan individually, collectively and systematically, to integrate students with such unique needs by using the ever-increasing interlocking of the world’s resources through the computer. The structure of this edition is spread widely, from the preliminary ideas of why inclusion is needed, which students do have diverse learning needs, and how social attitudes for inclusion ebb and flow through history. Each of the further chapters presents different aspects of those inclusive needs such as: assessment, collaboration, developing individual programs, instrumental design, collaborative student learning, management, social and emotional learning, and reflection. Each chapter presents key ideas and later key terms, with several developmental visual boxes shown, often with accompanying case studies, and suggestions for further reading. Twenty pages of 'Useful Forms’ are available including those for planning, permission notices for medication, learning at home, planning group and daily lessons and schedules, behaviour ratings or action plans. These can be photocopied or downloaded online. The twenty-two pages of bibliography, including online websites end this extensive and diverse exposition of possible diversity in the school. This book is suitable for all involved with supporting today’s students.
Mary McDougall, QLD
This is a very practical and user friendly reference text. Inclusive Education is the new buzz in Australian education along with personalised learning and differentiation. This book covers many of these aspects with practical tips, case studies, assessment information, supported by research and example proformas which a teacher can use to support inclusiveness in their classrooms.
The chapters are very easy to read and are not too academically worded or bogged down with research. This book has the technical vocabulary, definitions etc. and explains them in plain English terms and it is quite easy to read!
There are a number of case studies that have relevancy in today’s classroom and teachers are able to draw parallels with various situations of what is happening with pupils and how they can best support them in an inclusive environment. One of the most useful parts that I found with this book was with the example proformas of how to plan and record inclusive curriculum. For a teacher this is very practical and you can see how these proformas can be used in classroom situations. At the back there are blank copies which a teacher can use as is or it could be adapted to suit individual needs. These provide an excellent starting point to incorporate inclusiveness into your teaching. I can highly recommend this book as an excellent teacher resource.
Alison Hay, Yarra Hills Secondary College, VIC
Inclusive Education: What It Means, Proven Strategies, and a Case StudyBy Dr. Lilla Dale McManis • November 20, 2017
Considering the potential of inclusive education at your school, or, perhaps, are you currently working in an inclusive classroom and looking for effective strategies? Lean in to this deep-dive article on inclusive education to gather a solid understanding of what it means, what the research shows, and proven strategies that bring out the benefits for everyone.
What is inclusive education?
Inclusive education is when all students, regardless of any challenges they may have, are placed in age-appropriate general education classes that are in their own neighborhood schools to receive high quality instruction, interventions, and supports that enable them to meet success in the core curriculum (Bui, Quirk, Almazan, & Valenti, 2010; Alquraini & Gut, 2012).
The school and classroom operate on the premise that students with disabilities are as fundamentally competent as students without disabilities. Therefore, all students can be full participants in their classrooms and in the local school community. Much of the movement is related to legislation that students receive their education in the least restrictive environment (LRE). This means they are with their peers without disabilities to the maximum degree possible, with general education the placement of first choice for all students (Alquraini & Gut, 2012).
Successful inclusive education happens primarily through accepting, understanding, and attending to student differences and diversity, which can include the physical, cognitive, academic, social, and emotional. This is not to say that students never need to spend time out of regular education classes, because sometimes they do for a very particular purpose—for instance, for speech or occupational therapy. But the goal is this should be the exception.
The driving principle is to make all students feel welcomed, appropriately challenged, and supported in their efforts. It’s also critically important the adults are supported, too. This includes the regular education teacher and the special education teacher as well as all other staff and faculty who are key stakeholders; and that also includes parents.
The research-basis for inclusive education
Inclusive education and inclusive classrooms are gaining steam because there is so much research-based evidence around the benefits. Take a look.
Benefits for students
Simply put, both students with and without disabilities learn more. Many studies over the past three decades have found that students with disabilities have higher achievement and improved skills through inclusive education, and their peers without challenges benefit, too (Bui, et al., 2010; Dupuis, Barclay, Holms, Platt, Shaha, & Lewis, 2006; Newman, 2006; Alquraini & Gut, 2012).
For students with disabilities (SWD), this includes academic gains in literacy (reading and writing), math, and social studies—both in grades and on standardized tests, better communication skills, and improved social skills and more friendships. More time in the general classroom for SWD is also associated with fewer absences and referrals for disruptive behavior. This could be related to findings about attitude in that they have higher self-concept, they like school and their teachers more, and are more motivated around working and learning.
For their peers without disabilities, they also show more positive attitudes in these same areas when in inclusive classrooms. They make greater academic gains in reading and math. Research shows the presence of SWD gives non-SWD new kinds of learning opportunities. One of these is when they serve as peer-coaches. By attending to how to help another student, their own performance improves. Another is that as teachers take into greater consideration their diverse SWD learners, they provide instruction in a wider range of learning modalities (visual, auditory, and kinesthetic), which benefits their regular ed students as well.
Researchers often explore concerns and potential pitfalls that might make instruction less effective in inclusion classrooms (Bui et al., 2010; Dupois et al., 2006). But findings show this is not the case. Neither instructional time nor how much time students are engaged differs between inclusive and non-inclusive classrooms. In fact, in many instances regular ed students report little to no awareness that there even are students with disabilities in their classes. When they are aware, they demonstrate more acceptance and tolerance for SWD when they all experience an inclusive education together.
Parent’s feelings and attitudes
Parents, of course, have a big part to play. A comprehensive review of the literature (de Boer, Pijl, & Minnaert, 2010) found that on average parents are somewhat uncertain if inclusion is a good option for their SWD. On the upside, the more experience with inclusive education they had, the more positive parents of SWD were about it. Additionally, parents of regular ed students held a decidedly positive attitude toward inclusive education.
Now that we’ve seen the research highlights on outcomes, let’s take a look at strategies to put inclusive education in practice.
Inclusive classroom strategies
There is a definite need for teachers to be supported in implementing an inclusive classroom. A rigorous literature review of studies found most teachers had either neutral of negative attitudes about inclusive education (de Boer, Pijl, & Minnaert, 2011). It turns out that much of this is because they do not feel they are very knowledgeable, competent, or confident about how to educate SWD.
However, similar to parents, teachers with more experience—and in the case of teachers more training with inclusive education—were significantly more positive about it. Evidence supports that to be effective, teachers need an understanding of best practices in teaching and of adapted instruction for SWD; but positive attitudes toward inclusion are also among the most important for creating an inclusive classroom that works (Savage & Erten, 2015).
Of course, a modest blog article like this is only going to give the highlights of what have been found to be effective inclusive strategies. For there to be true long-term success necessitates formal training. To give you an idea though, here are strategies recommended by several research studies and applied experience (Morningstar, Shogren, Lee, & Born, 2015; Alquraini, & Gut, 2012).
Use a variety of instructional formats.
Start with whole group instruction and transition to flexible groupings which could be small groups, stations/centers, and paired learning. With regard to the whole group, using technology such as interactive whiteboards is related to high student engagement. Regarding flexible groupings: for younger students these are often teacher-led but for older students, they can be student-led with teacher monitoring. Peer-supported learning can be very effective and engaging and take the form of pair-work, cooperative grouping, peer tutoring, and student-led demonstrations.
Ensure access to academic curricular content.
All students need the opportunity to have learning experiences in line with the same learning goals. This will necessitate thinking about what supports individual SWD need, but overall strategies are making sure all students hear instructions, that they do indeed start activities, that all students participate in large group instruction, and that students transition in and out of the classroom at the same time. For this latter, not only will it keep students on track with the lessons, their non-SWD peers do not see them leaving or entering in the middle of lessons to be pulled out, which can really highlight their differences.
Apply universal design for learning.
These are methods that are varied and that support many learners’ needs. They include multiple ways of representing content to students and for students to represent learning back, such as modeling, images, objectives/manipulatives, graphic organizers, oral and written responses, and technology. These can also be adapted as modifications for SWDs where they have large print, use headphones, are allowed to have a peer write their dictated response, draw a picture instead, use calculators, or just have extra time. Think too about the power of project-based and inquiry learning where students individually or collectively investigate an experience.
Now let’s put it all together by looking at how a regular education teacher addresses the challenge and succeeds in using inclusive education in her classroom.
A case study of inclusive practices in schools and classes
Mrs. Brown has been teaching for several years now and is both excited and a little nervous about her school’s decision to implement inclusive education. Over the years she has had several special education students in her class but they either got pulled out for time with specialists or just joined for activities like art, music, P.E., and lunch and sometimes for selected academics.
She has always found this method a bit disjointed and has wanted to be much more involved in educating these students and finding ways they can take part more fully in her classroom. She knows she needs guidance in designing and implementing her inclusive classroom, but she’s ready for the challenge and to seeing the many benefits she’s been reading and hearing about for the children, their families, their peers, herself, and the school as a whole.
During the month before school starts, Mrs. Brown meets with the special education teacher Mr. Lopez—and other teachers and staff who work with her students—to coordinate the instructional plan that is based on the IEPs (Individual Educational Plan) of the three students with disabilities who will be in her class the upcoming year.
About two weeks before school starts, she invites each of the three children and their families to come into the classroom for individual tours and get-to-know you sessions with both herself and the special education teacher. She makes sure to provide information about back-to-school night and extends a personal invitation to them to attend so they can meet the other families and children. She feels very good about how this is coming together and how excited and happy the children and their families are feeling. One student really summed it up when he told her, “You and I are going to have a great year!”
The school district and the principal have sent out communications to all the parents about the move to having inclusion education at Mrs. Brown’s school. Now she wants to make sure she really communicates effectively with the parents, especially as some of the parents of both SWD and regular ed students have expressed hesitation that having their child in an inclusion classroom would work.
She talks to the administration and other teachers and, with their okay, sends out a joint communication after about two months into the school year with some questions provided by the book Creating Inclusive Classrooms (Salend, 2001 referenced in Salend & Garrick-Duhaney, 2001) such as “How has being in an inclusion classroom affected your child academically, socially, and behaviorally? Please describe any benefits or negative consequences you have observed in your child. What factors led to these changes?”; “How has your child’s placement in an inclusion classroom affected you? Please describe any benefits or any negative consequences for you.”; and “What additional information would you like to have about inclusion and your child’s class?” She plans to look for trends and prepare a communication that she will share with parents. She also plans to send out a questionnaire with different questions every couple of months throughout the school year.
Since she found out about the move to an inclusive education approach at her school, Mrs. Brown has been working closely with the special education teacher Mr. Lopez and reading a great deal about the benefits and the challenges. Determined to be successful, she is especially focused on effective inclusive classroom strategies.
Her hard work is paying off. Her mid-year and end-of-year results are very positive. The SWD are meeting their IEP goals. Her regular ed students are excelling. A spirit of collaboration and positive energy pervade her classroom and she feels this in the whole school as they practice inclusive education. The children are happy and proud of their accomplishments. The principal regularly compliments her. The parents are positive, relaxed, and supportive.
Mrs. Brown knows she has more to learn and do, but her confidence and satisfaction are high. She is especially delighted that she has been selected to be a part of her district’s team to train other regular education teachers about inclusive education and classrooms.
The future is very bright indeed for this approach. The evidence is mounting that inclusive education and classrooms are able to not only meet the requirements of LRE for students with disabilities, but to benefit regular education students as well. We see that with exposure both parents and teachers become more positive. Training and support allow regular education teachers to implement inclusive education with ease and success. All around it’s a win-win!
Lilla Dale McManis, MEd, PhD has a BS in child development, a MEd in special education, and a PhD in educational psychology. She was a K-12 public school special education teacher for many years and has worked at universities, state agencies, and in industry teaching prospective teachers, conducting research and evaluation with at-risk populations, and designing educational technology. Currently she is President of Parent in the Know where she works with families in need and also does business consulting.
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- Bui, X., Quirk, C., Almazan, S., & Valenti, M. , "Inclusive education research & practice. ," Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education
- de Boer, A., Pijl, S. J., & Minnaert, A. , "Attitudes of parents towards inclusive education: A review of the literature. ," European Journal of Special Needs Education, 25(2), 165-181.
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- Dupuis, B., Barclay, J. W., Holmes, S. D., Platt, M., Shaha, S. H., & Lewis, V. K. , "Does inclusion help students: Perspectives from regular education and students with disabilities.," Journal of the American Academy of Special Education Professionals, Summer, 74-91.
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- Newman, L. , "General education participation and academic performance of students with learning disabilities.," National Center for Special Education Research, Institute of Education Sciences (IES).
- Salend, S. J., & Garrick-Duhaney, L. M. , "What do families have to say about inclusion? How to pay attention and get results. ," Teaching Exceptional Children, 35(1), 62-66.
- Savage, R. S., & Erten, O. , "Teaching in inclusive classrooms: The link between teachers' attitudes-practices and student outcomes.," Journal of Psychology & Psychotherapy, 5(6), 219.