• Theme: Inclusive pedagogy
  • Media:Example of practice
Inclusive pedagogy gives a framework to recognise the ways in which teachers make school and learning accessible for all. It also helps us keep focus in taking the next (small) steps towards teaching all. Lani Florian is one of the founders of inclusive pedagogy and she describes inclusive pedagogy as “By adopting the assumption that difference is normal, all teachers share responsibility and are considered competent to teach all learners”.

We translated this in three key phrases:

  • Yes they can: they being the pupils, learners or students
  • Yes I can: I being the teacher or educational professional
  • Yes we can: we being the whole school team, so you and your colleagues

The framework of an inclusive pedagogy is compatible with most frameworks that intend to help educational professionals in teaching all. It celebrates teachers’ craftsmanship and uses diversity as an opportunity for learning.

Teachers and other educational professionals already do a lot of things that are examples of  inclusive pedagogy. Flemish primary school Het Zwaluwnest shows us how the framework of inclusive pedagogy works in their school.

Het Zwaluwnest is a primary school teaching pupils from ages 2,5 to 12. They are situated in a more rural area and teach about 150 to 200 pupils with a team of 15 educational professionals. Het Zwaluwnest is an open air school and after a lot of hard work on a shared vision and plan, they have put their plan in motion and started to install their beautiful outside learning spaces. The school is searching for how they can create a learning environment that is stimulating for all students. They often feel they still have a long way to go in working with diversity. By using inclusive pedagogy as a lens, we make visible what they are already achieving in teaching all. At the same time, this lens of inclusive pedagogy makes next steps towards teaching all visible.

Yes they can

Diversity is normal, we are all unique people with unique needs. The same is true for my pupils.

Given the right conditions and relationships, all my students can and want to learn and develop, I have faith in them.

I teach real individual pupils, not just imagined pupils that I can group in top, middle and bottom learners. I see their learning as complex and their development as ever growing.

I dare to take risks in my lessons and teaching, among other things this enables pupils to surprise me. So pupils get the possibility to respond to my teaching in different ways. My teaching is not rigid or predictable.

I see any behaviour as part of the development of pupils, their behaviour is a reflection of the developmental stage they are in. Showing unwanted behaviour does not make a pupil ‘bad’ or ‘horrible’.

How this is done in 't Zwaluwnest The inclusive pedagogy lens

All classes work with projects for the ‘world orientation’ course. Pupils chose the theme for the project during a whole class discussion. Some pupils do not participate (a lot) during this discussion. Afterwards their teacher makes time to ask them individually what they would like to add to the ideas offered during the class discussion.

The teachers in this school believe every child wants to learn, develop and participate. They actively facilitate this learning by looking for ways to connect and create the ideal conditions. In this case, the connection and ideal condition is created by taking time to approach the pupil individually to add their ideas and knowledge to the project plan.

The ProuD learning question of this school is all about evaluating project work. In this they want to focus on formative assessment.

The focus on formative assessment shows a believe in the learning capabilities of all pupils. They believe all pupils can and should be supported in their learning process, so they can take their learning to the next level. But it does not only show a believe in pupils, it also shows a yes I can. It shows a mindset of seeing your own teaching as a learning activity. Focussing on formative assessment requires an inquiry mindset and this will strengthen the act of teaching every single day.

Reading is a big focus in this school. Their school library is organised by age ranges, but pupils freely chose the book they want to read.

The school library is ordered in a way that gives structure to the pupils. The freedom they get in choosing their book shows a faith in their will to learn and develop.

A full wall is dedicated to showing off things pupils achieved, came up with and made.

This school makes room to celebrate every moment they got surprised by their pupils. By showing it publicly, they give others the opportunity to be inspired.

This school is an open air school, transforming their outside spaces into places that challenge, support, engage and surprise both pupils and teachers. They plan on creating spaces with open ended materials (a bowl might be something to prepare food in, a hat or a stepping stone in a river full of crocodiles). Other spaces will be filled with calm, ideal places to retreat to or read a book.

A well thought out plan to change the outside environment is visible in this school. This way the surroundings support the teachers in planning for surprise in their lessons. By planning for surprise, teachers activate their pupils and use the diversity among their pupils to the advantage of everyone’s learning.

 

Yes I can

All pupils are my responsibility and I am capable of teaching them.

I see challenges as learning opportunities for myself and my pupils.

I will keep on learning as a professional. The act of teaching itself is a learning opportunity. I can reflect on it and talk about it with colleagues.

I’m not only a teacher, I’m a learner as well and my pupils are my teachers.

How this is done in 't Zwaluwnest The inclusive pedagogy lens

The neighbourhood around this school has changed a lot in the last few years. Because of this, the school has experienced a growth in the number of pupils who have special needs. One of the ways the school has responded is by rethinking their reading culture. Everyday at the same time, every pupil in school will be reading. Their slogan is: “Reading is fun!”

This school has taken the challenge of a changing neighbourhood as a learning opportunity. Enhancing their reading culture for every pupil, whether they have special needs or not. A changing neighbourhood is not someone else’s problem, every member of the school team is able to respond and they take this responsibility seriously.
Some children in this school are supported by a special needs teacher, who comes in to the school for a few short hours every week. The special needs teacher works in the classroom, supporting the learning of both the pupil and the teacher. The teachers see pupils as their responsibility, even when the special needs teacher comes in. They see the special needs teacher not as someone to hand the pupil over to, but as someone who can help them learn about the pupil(s).

The pupils in this school freely chose the theme for the project in the ‘world orientation’ course. There is no list they have to choose from, no limit set by the teacher. Pupils don’t just chose the theme, they also discuss what they might learn and do in this project. In one pre-school class the pupils decided on a project about superheroes. They discussed superhero clothing (and how to make it themselves), real live superheroes (like firefighters), super powers, and so on.

By giving pupils this freedom, the teacher takes a learning role. The choice of theme unveils the interests of the pupils and when discussing what they might learn and do, the teacher gets insight in their foreknowledge about the theme. And even the act of discussing in itself shows the teacher a lot about the social skills of the pupils.

 

Yes we can

My classroom door is open to others, this way me and my colleagues can learn together. Through dialogues we reflect on our pupils responses to our teaching and what these responses represent.

In our school, we actively work on a culture of respect for difference, we do this through ongoing collaboration.

How this is done in 't Zwaluwnest The inclusive pedagogy lens
When two year 6 classes were placed together in a corona-bubble (a bubble contained the people you could have contact with), their teachers decided to experiment. They started co-teaching, and don’t want to go back (and neither do their pupils). These teachers felt the security to experiment with working together intensely. They create their lessons together and are supported by the school principle and staff.

This school is housed in a rather old school building. After years of spontaneous open door policies, the building will be adapted with shared spaces between several classes.

Teachers in this school are not afraid to share their everyday practice with each other. They do this even though their physical surrounding makes it hard for them, showing their strong will to collaborate.
At the end of each school year, teachers make time to hand over ‘their’ pupils to next years’ teachers. The school supports this hand-over by offering a list of themes to be discussed. Each year a teacher discovers new things about a pupil, what works and what doesn’t. Rather than keeping their novel findings to themselves, they share them so next years’ teacher gets a head start.

 

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