13 de noviembre de 2020
Education without boundaries: Setting an inclusive classroom
Astrid Natalia Rojas Torres
One of the most challenging situations we have currently faced in the world has to do with the pandemic of COVID-19. We could realize the inequality and barriers we have in the world in terms of accessing to quality education based on the diversity we have in our classrooms. Also, it is believed that the way we are educating students is not the same for all the population. Regarding this, it is crucial to start involving all students in a friendly environment as well as providing teachers with tips to face obstacles, due to the lack of information and training on this issue since they do not know how to manage an inclusive class based on series of circumstances that differ from the face to face classroom.
Over time, there has been a reflection on the importance of inclusive education, which must guarantee education and learning for everyone. According to Dash (2006), inclusive education is a “worldwide movement with the aiming to create one education system that values all children and to devise a classroom that welcome all children irrespective of disability, community background, gender or ethnic background” (p. 6). At present, there is a new concept of children with special needs. Within this new concept, it is not acceptable to consider children as disabled. By the same token, UNICEF (2017) asserts that inclusive education ‘‘includes all students, and welcomes and supports them to learn, whoever they are and whatever their abilities or requirements’’ (p. 1).We must break inaccurate concepts like less fortunate or children with mental impediment retarded and change it into uniqueness and diversity of individuals.
By the same token, according to UNESCO (1994), “children with special educational needs should be accommodated within an inclusive educational framework that celebrated differences, supported learning, responded to individual needs and urged governments, throughout the world, to implement inclusive educational practices” (p. 5). In this article, we will consider some principles and strategies addressed to English language teachers to assure the education for everyone.
There is a wide range of authors who suggest some principles to set an inclusive education in schools; some experts from Monash University, specially O´toole (2019) proposed some guidelines such as ‘‘diversity, personalised curriculum, students engagement [and ] assessment processes’’ (p. 2)
In regard to diversity, it represents the key of the education process. Laktionova (as cited in O’toole 2019) highlights that “every student is unique and every group of students is different” (p. 1). On this subject, it is essential that teachers understand that classrooms show a piece of the world’s reality, and students who interact there, have different beliefs and belong to varied cultural backgrounds even if they are from the same country. The personalised curriculum is built on the students’ weaknesses and strengths. Laletas (as cited in O´toole 2019) affirms that [the purpose of this is to] “recognise each student” (p. 2) [as unique]. Since students are unique, they have the right to be engaged and considered as such in our classes. They cannot be excluded since they are part of the classroom, Núñez-Pardo (2020) affirms that “students’ life projects are unique subjects” (p. v). Regarding this, it does not matter if they are not working the same topics. We can include them by assigning task based approach on their level and give them the option to interact with others. Finally, the stage of assessment process the teacher must have a constant interaction with parents to give them clear instructions of what students will be doing during the academic term. This part is essential to anticipate what students will be doing during the classes.
In line with these principles, it is pertinent to start from the premise that all students have their own learning style. The following excerpts portray some strategies to consider in an inclusive classroom:
- Think on different ways to teach a lesson: you can teach a new concept by using different ways of representation. Besides, you should consider multiple intelligences to let students accomplish their goals. For instance, you may teach by having students creating a mind map or a drawing (visual); another way is with a reading including images (visual) or by giving a lecture to explain the topic (auditory) or having students acting out what they have learnt (kinesthetic) if you include methodological approaches to explain a concept, students will increase their learning/understanding.
- Build community with your colleagues: have contact with your colleagues or other institutions’ experiences, asking them what they suggest or the way they work. You will enhance your pedagogical practices.
- Listen to your students being aware of their background: teaching and learning is a communicative process. Besides, it encourages students to participate actively by giving suggestions, making questions, or asking questions to activate their prior knowledge. Likewise, their life experiences will make them enjoy their learning process. From Núñez-Pardo and Téllez-Téllez’ (2020) view, ‘‘It is time for English teachers to critically undertake the scholarly activity of developing ELT materials by creating contextualised ones that respond to the local needs, interests, and life experiences of the learners in their own context’’ (p. 23). The result we could get from this process will improve our pedagogical practice and our class performance as well.
- Create or choose the appropriate materials: it is vital to choose the correct materials for our students that include diverse people, aimed at making students feel identified and aware of all our diversity; besides, teachers must verify that the chosen materials selected let students talk about their context, and what they find in the activities assigned. Include sensorial activities in your class. When students use their senses, they learn better and retain what you have taught to them. According to Thompson (2011), “multisensory learning is effective because it keeps children more engaged and focussed on their learning” (p. 2) Additionally, when materials are created with and for the students, they are more motivated to learn a second language. On this matter, Vargas (2020) asserts that “one way to motivate students and engage them in learning activities is the performance of games and interactive activities, in which students do not feel like having an academic activity” (par.3). Then, contextualized materials for your students make feel them identified and more motivated when learning a second language.
- Create a safe environment: A language must be learnt in a fun way, students should enjoy their classes, to make a psychologically and physically safe environment it is necessary to stablish rules with students. Also, it is acceptable to use the first language when pupils do not get a concept since it helps them to transfer that concept into their first language. It means that they keep receiving their input into the English language, but they could transmit their understanding in the first language at the beginning of the process since it will make them feel more confident.
Concerning the use of the strategies already mentioned, we would enhance the teaching and learning process. Our classroom will be friendly and inclusive bearing in mind that a classroom is a mini multicultural and diverse world in which teachers must reassure accessible learning to each student.
Dash, N. (2006). Inclusive education for children with special needs. New –Delhi: Atlantic Publishers.
Grové, C., & Laletas, S. (in press, 2019). Educational Psychology: A critical part of inclusive education. In C. Boyle & K. Allen (Eds.), Inclusive education: perspectives, practices, and challenges. Inclusive Education: Perspectives, Practices and Challenges. Nova Science Publishers, Inc.
Núñez-Pardo, A., & Téllez-Téllez, M.F. (2020). Tracing the cultural component in teacher-generated EFL materials. In A. Núñez-Pardo, & M.F. Téllez-Téllez (Eds.) Research on teacher-generated materials for language learning (pp.19-103). Bogotá, Colombia: Departamento de Publicaciones Universidad Externado de Colombia.
Núñez-Pardo, A. (2020c). Decolonizar el libro de texto de inglés: una apuesta desde la interculturalidad crítica (Doctoral dissertation). Universidad Pedagógica y Tecnológica de Colombia, Tunja, Boyacá, Colombia.
O’Toole, T. (7 de Noviembre de 2019). Monash University. Obtenido de https://www.monash.edu/education/teachspace/articles/five-principles-of-inclusive-education
Thompson, C. J. (2011). Multi-Sensory Intervention Observational Research. International Journal of Special Education, 26(1), 202-214.
UNESCO (1994). The Salamanca declaration and framework for action. Paris: Author.
UNICEF(2017). Including children with disabilities in quality learning: what needs to be done? Author.
Vargas, A. (2020). Supporting Children’s English Learning at Home.Universidad
Externado de Colombia. Retrieved August 17th, 2020 from Cuestiones Educativas: https://cuestioneseducativas.uexternado.edu.co/supporting-childrens-english-learning-at-home/