To develop inclusive practices, teachers need to adapt their role and develop their compentences accordingly.
An inclusive school and society, according to the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education (2016), requires teachers and other educational professionals to:
Use a community-centred approach through pupil participation, valuing expertise by experience of children and peers. Example article Manifesto for attuned teaching - see download material.
Create a holistic curriculum for each learner.
In a holistic approach, attention is given to the physical, personal, social, emotional and spiritual well-being of children in addition to the cognitive aspects of learning. Even when a learning activity focuses on a specific learning goal, it is always integrated and interconnected with each child, the child's family, communities and peers. Learning is seen as a social activity in which collaborative learning is central. In an integrated, holistic approach to teaching and learning, attention is paid to connections with the natural environment. For an example, watch the Video "The Butterfly Circus".
Use a holistic design approach
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework that offers tools to put an inclusive vision into practice. Also, the Four-Component Instructional Design Model (Van Merriënboer & Kirschner, 2017) can be applied. For an example, watch the Film 'Accessible Learning for All'.
Be culturally responsive. With this concept we focus on the importance of acknowledging all the divers cultural backgrounds and traditions. When a teacher is interested in the background of a child, connects with the traditions (festivities, food, habits,…), this can be very empowering for children. For example: Students appeal to Education for inclusion of Muslim holiday.
Because these are broader and sometimes new roles for the teacher, according to European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education (2012) the teacher needs four core competences. In our research (2021) the importance of these competences was inquired within the participating countries:
To achieve inclusion, we need to tailor our educational environment and our educational concept to the learning needs of each learner in the diverse population. With structural and inclusive changes in teaching and curricula, a school can create an inclusive environment. The concept of inclusion must be supported by all teaching staff. Inclusion is the norm. This requires a structural adjustment as to 'practice what you preach'. A learning activity will help you to explore the resources you can use to create inclusive learning environments.
In our current school system we observe the tyranny of homogeneity, forming unities of 30 pupils, excluding minorities. In this current system we don't value diversity, maybe also because we believe it is inefficient? Maybe we run our schools for the benefit of the greatest return? Have you interrogated your own values?
The following questions may support your reflection and dialogue:
All this is linked to an inclusive pedagogy. Clicking on the image depicted below leads you to Professor Lani Florian, Bell Chair of Education, delivering her inaugural lecture entitled "Inclusive Pedagogy: a transformative approach to understanding and responding to individual differences". This lecture explores the transformative potential of inclusive pedagogy as an alternative approach to addressing longstanding educational inequalities such as the chronic underachievement of particular groups of learners. Recorded on 11 March 2015 at the University of Edinburgh's 50 George Square building.
Meirsschaut, M., Monsecour, F. & Wilssens, M. (2015). Universeel ontwerp in de klas en op school: op-stap naar redelijke aanpassingen. Gent: Arteveldehogeschool, www.arteveldehogeschool.be/universeelontwerp