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Inclusive Learning Essay

We cannot assume that just because a teacher teaches, a learner learns. The process is far more complex than one of received input and intended outcome. This is because teachers, when engaging with learners, are not involved in programming machines; the learning process involves humans who are diverse in their needs, development, attitudes, values and beliefs. (O’Brien & Guiney, 2001, p. 2)

Whilst studying inclusion for this assignment, I have learned much about the ways in which children learn. Yandell (2011) argues a similar point to O’Brien and Guiney (2001), which is that for pupils to learn, the learning needs to be more than a teacher giving mountains of information. Both in researching and in teaching a scheme of inclusive lessons, I have learned that teaching needs to be differentiated for the variety of children in each class. In my own experience, having taught a class consisting of thirty pupils, two of whom are hearing impaired children and seventeen pupils for whom English is an addition language, “reasonable adjustments” (Rieser, 2002, p. 259) made to make the curriculum accessible for one pupil can be greatly beneficial for others in the class also. Anything the teacher does in the classroom whilst focussing on one group will impact on the others. It is these reasonable adjustments which form the basis of inclusive learning, as the needs of each pupil will vary depending on anything from preferred learning styles to whether the child has a profound barrier to learning.

Reddy (2004) writes about the needs of pupils with hearing impairments, and relates these to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. He also provides some teaching strategies to ensure these needs are met in order to allow a hearing impaired pupil to inclusively take part in the lesson. The lowest sections on the hierarchy are the physiological needs and the safety needs (Maslow, 1970, p. 22). In terms of planning inclusively for hearing impaired pupils, the reasonable adjustments should be to ensure the safety and physiological needs of all pupils are met. This influenced the lessons I have taught, as I have been sure to include a variety of visual, auditory, kinaesthetic and tactile learning episodes. When straining hearing and lip reading for a long period of time in discussion, the eyes and ears can become sore and in need of rest. It is important therefore, that I provide pupils with a list of key objectives and a plan prior to the lesson so that they are able to know exactly when it is necessary to listen hard and to ensure they are lip reading.

The variety of tasks also allows for rest breaks for the senses which have been used earlier in the lesson, so that pupils do not experience pain and become frustrated and irritable. To help support this physiological need for comfort, I also ensure that background noise is at a minimum during learning segments when concentration is necessary, as without this it can be painful for a student wearing a hearing aid (Reddy, 2004, p. 178). Butt too, agrees that learning is a more social experience than a teacher transmitting knowledge to students. He states that “simply listening to the teacher will rarely constitute effective learning for most students. The teacher has to plan and prepare for all the students in the class – an act of differentiation” (Butt, 2006, p. 39). He continues, [as a teacher,] “your aim should be to keep all students engaged and interested in the learning that you are planning” (Butt, p. 40). He also discusses the reasons why this is difficult; there are an infinite amount of learning styles and educational demands in any one group of children.

By changing the task and keeping a quick paced classroom for the hearing impaired pupils, each of their classmates are experiencing a variety of learning styles also. This is beneficial for keeping all my pupils engaged and interested in the learning. Likewise, in order for pupils to concentrate, silence can be beneficial more many more pupils than those who are hearing impaired for their physiological needs to be met. Also, providing all pupils with the same plan and key objectives prior to the lesson not only allows for the hearing impaired pupils to feel as though they are being given the same instruction as their classmates, but also provides all pupils with a prior knowledge of what is most important to listen explicitly to and to makes notes on, meaning more effective learning can take place.

Therefore, I have come to understand this differentiation strategy as simply being best practice for all learners in an inclusive classroom. A number of researchers have argued that explicitly teaching the big ideas of a discipline is crucial for students with disabilities. Motivation is ensured when we continuously return to a small number of known big ideas (Gore, 2010, 76). If pupils are given a lesson plan and a very short amount of key objectives, they can see that their learning is contributing practically towards something. “Motivation is an essential factor for learning to take place; it is considered to be the driving force behind learning” (Reddy, p. 178).

Aware of pupils’ history
Establish good relationships and trustEstablishing
Lessons contain explicit valuemotivation
Listen to all pupils patiently
Accept all feelings, frustrations and fears
(Reddy, p. 178)

In terms of Maslow’s hierarchy, in order for pupils to feel comfortable they must feel some element of success in order to be motivated. Often, hearing impaired pupils show signs of difficulties throughout their academic career and this may become a reason for de-motivation. There are a huge number of inclusion strategies which can aid motivation, and thus maintain an inclusive classroom. OFSTED regularly report a lack of differentiation, appropriate challenge, insufficient motivation and poor pacing (Butt, p. 41). In a recent report, OFSTED wrote about motivation being the; “inspiring of young people, building their self-esteem and helping them to progress” (Ofsted, 7th Nov 2011).

Learned helplessness is what Seligman (1975) calls low achievement motivation. In general, adolescents with learning difficulties demonstrate lower achievement motivation towards school work, except for in areas where they experience success. After repeated failures students quickly learn that they cannot succeed in school and become de-motivated and frustrated (Gore, p. 21). Frustration is reduced when students understand what they are supposed to do. Inclusive teachers communicate to pupils exactly what is expected to be learned. By providing both written and oral instruction sequencing is facilitated (Gore, p. 30). As all children have the right to learn, it is inclusive practice to ensure that all pupils know exactly what the instruction is. In my classroom, it is imperative that I repeat instructions as with seventeen students for whom English is an additional language and two hearing impaired pupils, there is a good chance that instruction can be misheard or misunderstood. Paivio’s dual coding theory (1990) refers to teaching visually and auditory at the same time. It posits that the more neural paths that a memory involves, the more likely it is to be accessed at a later date (Gore, p. 25).

With my class, I have found that providing both oral and written instruction reduces frustration and increases motivation. The instructions given must follow three rules; “explicitness, structure and repetition” (Gore, p. 23). Even classroom rules can be displayed obviously in the classroom and referred to whenever they are broken by bad behaviour. Research has been done to show that students with learning difficulties are more likely to notice salient information than the critical information that teachers direct them to observe, as they have difficulty discriminating between the critical and the irrelevant (Gore, p 15). By reading and hearing a small number of bullet pointed instructions, confusion is eliminated and attention is captured, ensuring all pupils can understand exactly what is necessary for a task to be undertaken correctly. These instructions are given orally, shown on the interactive whiteboard and a copy given on work sheets to provide ample repetition.

This allows for a much bigger chance of success and thus motivation for all pupils. Another way to ensure inclusion is the way in which you use room layout. In the class I picked for this assignment, I have chosen to seat both the hearing impaired students at the front of the class next to each other. This way I can oversee the work they are doing without causing embarrassment, and I can subtly ensure they are completing the correct task. I can also make sure that when I have finished explaining, they are the first pupils I go to when circulating the room. On either side of them I have picked a student from their friendship group who copes well with work. I think this works well, as when working in pairs, the hearing impaired pupils are less uncomfortable when talking either to each other or to their friends than they would be someone who they were nervous or shy about their impairment around.

I can then have these pairs of friends be reading partners, whereby fluent readers help the other pupils who are less advanced in their reading skills (Fleming, 2000, p. 59). Pupils with hearing impairment often struggle with grammar and cohesion in writing; they “exhibit linguistic difficulties” (Reddy, p. 165). In order to combat this, schemes need to be planned with modifications not only to what we teach, but how we teach it in order to make the curriculum accessible for all the pupils in the class, for example as suggested by Purdie (2000), by teaching phonics (Clough, 2002, p. 165). Although planning has to be done primarily on the class level, consideration of the need for differentiation in the case of particular individuals is suitable. Getting to know your students as individuals is therefore an important first step (Butt, p. 45). As writing can be a very solitary experience, this may not be the preferred learning style of the class.

Writing needs to be scaffolded when this is the case, as it is for my class. When writing creatively, for example in the lesson where my students write a diary entry on a gas attack, we first looked at real gas masks, followed by real gas attack posters, and then created sentence starters together on the board. This scaffolded the writing process by providing opportunities for the auditory, kinaesthetic and tactile learners to learn at their fullest potential also. Reading makes up a large part of the national curriculum, and is something which the hearing impaired pupil can be given opportunities to succeed with. “Modelling and imitation are important learning processes” (Reddy, p. 167) and this is something which I carry out daily in the classroom, particularly when reading a text. I will model the most important sections of each chapter and invite other readers to read aloud other more descriptive sections.

Although not always available, I would also aim to use a loop system which would enable pupils to hear the other, perhaps quieter pupils reading, more effectively. This ensures that I am able to assess how pupils can read aloud whilst allowing those who struggle hearing to understand the text thoroughly. However, in my class, for hearing impaired pupils and those for whom English is an additional language, reading aloud can be feared greatly. In order to provide inclusion for these pupils, it is possible for them to have prepared passages beforehand (Fleming, p. 59) by allocating sections to be read aloud the following week or lesson. For one of my hearing impaired pupils and for a couple of EAL pupils I selected, this worked extremely well, as the child was prepared for reading aloud and could practice the section in advance knowing that they would have to read aloud. I chose to not ask the other hearing impaired pupil to read out in front of her classmates, as her impairment is more profound and if affects her speech. She is very withdrawn and shy around most people in the class and I thought that it would be unwise to ask her and risk her embarrassment and further de-motivation.

Instead, she is seated next to a friend for peer tutoring. This term refers to reciprocal tutoring of students with similar achievement which is relevant here; the pupil does not struggle with reading alone as shown in comprehension tasks, but with reading aloud. Peer tutoring can increase pupils’ motivation and persistence because of the adolescents’ social drive (Gore, p. 64-65). It is for these reasons that peer tutoring not only benefits the pupil with a barrier to learning, but the ‘tutor’ in the pair also. I have therefore arranged the seating plan for all pupils to be seated next to someone with a similar ability, so that all pupils can benefit from peer tutoring. As learners handle content differently, they should be given opportunities to be more active than passive; understanding, processing, applying, storing and passing on information in peer tutoring is a good way to ensure all pupils have consolidated learning (Butt, p. 39).

Becoming an inclusive teacher is particularly difficult when a trainee, as it is imperative that you know your pupils. Inclusion can be as simple as having a pupil’s favourite cartoon character appear on a presentation to increase interest and motivation, or needing to know their exact reading and writing ages or ability, so as not to de-motivate them with work which is impossible for them to complete. A competent and inclusive teacher will say, “this may be tough” instead of “this will be easy” to give room for students to feel inflated when they are successful (Reddy, 169). Once the teacher knows their pupils, work can be differentiated so that each and every one of the class has the opportunity to reach their fullest potential. This could be in the form of preferred learning style, tailored resources, lots of formative assessment, higher/lower order questions, use of a teaching assistant and various other teaching strategies.

It is important to remember when planning a scheme, that pupils may struggle and become de-motivated with one aspect of learning and thrive in another, and so therefore it is necessary that the teacher is a learner also. The most important lesson I have learned during my time with this class, is that successful inclusion strategies are not only for those pupils who you think may need it the most, but are beneficial for all pupils in the classroom. My idea of inclusive learning has altered hugely whilst researching for this assignment, as has my idea of what the role of a teacher is. The teacher’s main role is to ensure that all pupils learn, and that is simply impossible without inclusive teaching strategies being employed.

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