The Success of Inclusive Classrooms
Inclusive classroom is the cause of debates between families with children who have learning disabilities and those that do not have children with learning disabilities (Brehm, 2003). Inclusion can be understood as Brehm states it, Providing to all students, including those with significant disabilities, equitable opportunities to receive effective education; services, with the needed supplementary aids and support services, in age-appropriate classrooms in their neighborhood schools, in order to prepare students for productive lives as full members of society. (2003, p. 89) With the collaboration of the school and home, inclusive classrooms can be successful. Students who have learning disabilities and those who do not have learning disabilities will have the opportunity to develop in a personal fashion, social relationships, and helps students with learning disabilities become “productive… as full members of society” (Brehm, 2003, p. 89). Inclusive classrooms are consistent with the law that all students should be educated in the least restrictive environment (Banerji & Dailey, 1995).
Some are opposed inclusion because they believe it will be costly for the school. One school wanted to test inclusive classrooms in their own school and to see the effects. They froze their budget so the public cannot attribute their success to an increase in expenses (Van Dyke, Stallings, & Colley, 1995). Their per-pupil expenditures for students with learning disabilities were slightly lower than neighboring schools. Since all students were included in the general education the budget was reformed (not increased) to support that. For example, the school did not have to provide separate transportation for students with special needs nor did the district have to pay private tuition for the students they could not accommodate. The school had “educational supplies” as opposed to separate supplies for the regular education classes and the special education classes (Van Dyke, et al. 1995). Another criticism is that the training needed for teachers, the workshops for school staff, and the collaboration that is needed to make inclusion successful will take a lot of extra time (Van Dyke, et al. 1995). That is true. However, the training and education teachers receive is valuable and improves their teaching to typical students and special students. The benefits that are gained by all students is worth the time (Benerji & Dailey, 1995). Lastly, after a few trainings teachers learn how to run an inclusive classroom so less time is needed for workshops. If we implement the proper education for inclusion in college, teachers will begin teaching with greater skills and knowledge of how to run an inclusive classroom. Another concern is that students with learning disabilities do not necessarily do better academically in an inclusive setting compared to the special education classes. Through research it has been found that after one year of inclusive classrooms in three different districts, 54% of the students with learning disabilities learned what they were expected to (Zigmund, Jenkins, Fuchs, & Fafard, 1995). That number was only given after one year of inclusion classroom. The success stories will keep growing if inclusion is done with the right focus and method. Classrooms are an introduction to the community that we live in. Children with disabilities need to be in regular classrooms to help them prepare for the challenges that will arise in the “real world,” (Van Dyke, et al. 1995). Segregating students puts a label on them that they are different and are therefore treated differently. But, really they are apart our community so they should be part of our schools (Van Dyke, et al. 1995). As, Van Dyke, Stallings, and Colley state, “To be truly prepared to take part in the real world as adults, children with disabilities need to be educated in language rich classrooms and to interact daily with peers who are appropriate role models” (p. 475, 1995). There are tremendous social gains for students in inclusive environments. Included students have higher peer ratings and are more accepted compared to students in the resource program (Brehm, 2003). According to the research that was done by Benjeri and Dailey (2003), students with learning disabilities improved in their self-esteem and motivation.
Students also changed in their social behavior, which helped them make friends and be part of a group of friends (Benjeri & Dailey, 2003). In addition, students learned to care for one another, to learn and work together. One teacher reported that while all the students were at free play, the teachers were standing around and watching them. One teacher jokingly said that the teachers were not needed anymore because the students have learned to interact and problem solve with one another without the intervention of a teacher (Benjeri & Dailey, 1995). The students without disabilities also gain from inclusive classrooms. Firstly, students learned to accept all types of people no matter what they look like and value the differences of their classmates. They learned that everyone has something valuable to share. Students were less afraid of their classmates that looked or behaved differently. The students learning effected the parents too. In an ethnographic yearlong study it was found that students became more tolerant with others as a result of their awareness of their peers with disabilities (Staub & Peck, 1994). Additionally, the study has shown that students developed positive feeling of themselves after they helped or spent time with a peer who was disabled. Their self-esteem was increased as a result of their interactions with their peers. They felt that their “helping role” with a disabled peer elevated their status in the classroom and gave them a stronger sense of belonging. The relationships between students with all different types of abilities were strong, meaningful, and long-lasting friendships (Staub & Peck, 1994). We can facilitate successful inclusion in our classrooms with the right intervention, approaches, and supports. Most importantly, there must be collaboration between the school psychologist or social worker, the special education teacher, the general education teacher, the principal, and the home. Everyone has to be informed and in agreement. When there is unity between all the parties involved in a child’s education, the child has a sense of security and can be educated in the best possible way (Van Dyke, et al., 1995).
Support systems must be put in place for the teachers to turn to for advice and to help with instruction in the classroom. The teachers should meet with a special education teacher and teacher consultant to discuss strategies for their classroom. Every classroom should have a general education teacher and a special education teacher who will be in the classroom for a part of the day and a co-teacher. Trainings and workshops should be given to educate teachers about effective inclusion and instruction (Van Dyke, et al., 1995). One up-and-coming new style of teaching is known as the Universal Design for Learning (UDL). This style of teaching meets the needs of all learners. UDL encourages teachers to create a flexible curriculum that is customized for each student. It allows students to progress from where they are and not where one imagines them to be. For an inclusive classroom, UDL is especially important because there are different learners and each child needs to learn at his own pace (www.udlcenter.org). The curriculum should include visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning styles. Assistive technology such as alternative keyboards, electronic pointing devices, Sip-and-puff systems, wands and sticks, joysticks, trackballs, touch screens, should be available for any student. Assistive technology makes the classroom a friendlier place for a student who needs it. UDL offers different ways for students to express themselves and what they have learned. Students learn how to self-regulate their emotions and motivations. They don’t just learn information rather, they learn skills in how to learn and process information. They also expand their executive functioning which helps them set goals for themselves, monitor their progress, and control impulsions (www.udlcenter.org).
Based on the research that was read, inclusion is an ideal way of teaching our children about the world and social relationships. The classroom is a model of a child’s community. Every child belongs to a community and so does every child deserve the chance to receive the best education in the least restrictive environment (Van Dyke, et al., 1995). Inclusive classrooms teach the skills and life lessons to all the students of all types of abilities. Students develop healthier self-esteems, learn how to interact with each other and problem solve together. Students become more accepting of others differences and learn to look out for each individuals unique traits. Inclusion removes the labels that make others different and not good enough. It lets the classroom be a growing place for all no matter the disabilities (Van Dyke, et al., 1995). The key to Inclusion is communication. The school and the home must be involved in aspects of the child’s education . Teachers need to be trained and taught how to be effective in an inclusive classroom (Van Dyke, et al., 1995). Additionally, UDL will help the curriculum be shaped to help each child succeed in their own way (www.udlcener.org). The limitations of this paper is that it does not state what types of disabilities should be included in the classroom and at what level of functioning a student must be to be included. The paper does not discuss whether a pull out program may be needed or not and to what extent it can be used.
Benerji, M., Dailey, R. A. (1995). A Study of the Effects of an Inclusive Model on Students with Specific Learning Disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 28(8), p511-522. doi: 10.1177/002221949502800806 Brehm, K. (2003). Lessons to Be Learned and the End of the Day. School Psychology Quarterly, 18(1), p.88-95. doi:10.1521/scpq.184.108.40.20675
Staub, D., Peck, C. A. (1994). What Are the Outcomes for Nondisabled Students? Educaional Leadership, 6, p36-40. Retrieved from http://rdas-proxy.mercy.edu:3176/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=4bf1b7b5-27eb-4c47-9b29-43509138eaff%40sessionmgr110&vid=4&hid=125 Van Dyke, R., Stallings, M. A., Colley, K. (1995). How to Build an Inclusive Community: A Success Story. Phi Delta Kappan, 76, p475-479. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/218474563?accountid=12387 Zigmond, N., Jenkins, J., Fuchs, L. S., Fafard, M. (1995). Special Education in Restructured Schools: Findings from Three Multi-Year Studies. Phi Delta Kappan, 76(7), p531-540. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/218510466?accountid=12387