“Inclusion” and “Inclusive Practice” are often used interchangeably in the education world, but there is more to inclusive practice than togetherness. Inclusion takes an important step in the right direction by making sure all students, regardless of variability, are present in the same classroom. But in order for inclusion to be effective, you must also implement inclusive practice. Inclusive practice is bigger than getting all students in the same classroom; inclusive practice gives all students the opportunity to learn, be supported, and be challenged, regardless of variability.
Implementing inclusive practice requires effective leadership and support, opportunities for professional development, and a willingness to relinquish some control as a teacher by allowing students to make their own choices and become responsible for their own learning.
Before we can effectively implement inclusive practice, we first have to embrace the concept of variability. All students are different, with their own unique mixes of strengths and weaknesses. However, our teaching methods, materials, assessments, and classrooms are all too often created in a one-size-fits-all fashion for the mythical “average learner.” This practice doesn’t allow all students to access information and resources and puts some students at an extreme disadvantage. It often results in labeling students as learning disabled. It’s time to consider that our practices and systems are disabled, not our students.
All students are capable of being successful in their own way if they are provided with the personalized avenues to receive instruction. Every child deserves to access rigorous standards and be provided with options to access appropriate academic, social-emotional, and behavioral supports in order to meet or exceed those standards in relevant, authentic, and meaningful ways. When inclusive practice is done effectively, all students become engaged learners.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an education framework that allows educators to effectively implement inclusive practice in classrooms by removing barriers and providing options and choices for all students. With UDL, our role as teachers is to facilitate the process of learning and teach students how to learn in the way that works best for each of them. With UDL, we foster student self-reflection, self-assessment, and use mastery-oriented feedback to help students analyze and reflect their choices so they can make better choices in the future, that will help them to reach their goals.
When it comes down to it, inclusive practice is so important because it is an equity issue. With UDL, we have the ability to transform all of our students into expert learners. That is something worth fighting for.
To learn more about UDL, visit my blog, “What Does UDL Look Like?” or read one of the following articles:
- “Why UDL Matters for English Language Learners” – Language Magazine, March, 2018
- “What Kids with ADHD Need to Learn: A Recipe from a Mom Who Is Also a School Superintendent” – ADDitude Magazine, February, 2018
- “A Scene Shifter: Personalization Under UDL” – AASA, The School Superintendents Association – November, 2015