Monday, March 25, 2013

CREATING AN INCLUSIVE, STUDENT CENTERED LEARNING ENVIRONMENT


CREATING AN INCLUSIVE, STUDENT CENTERED LEARNING
ENVIRONMENT 

Inclusive learning or education is a terminology that has been described in a variety of ways by diverse advocacy groups and institute.  Inclusion in the educational field refers to the processes that are aimed at incorporating minority groups in society, specifically the physically challenged, in the educational process. An inclusive model of education is therefore, that which is able to eradicate all barriers and frontiers to learning and in doing so ascertain that classically excluded and marginalized learners are satisfactorily included at all stages of learning. Such sets of procedures ensure that there is the utilization of age suitable and specialized academic lessons for the disabled individuals as stipulated in the respective Individualized Education Program policies. Unlike mainstreaming or integration which is aimed at shifting disabled children to the normal classes after the disabled children have proven that they can keep up with the others, inclusion refers to taking the children to normal schools but also providing them with the specialized care that they need to compete fairly with the normal learners (The City University of New York and National Center on Educational Restructuring and Inclusion, 1995).
According to Shaddock et al (2007) the inclusion of learners with disabilities to the education process is not a new phenomenon and neither is it restricted to Australia. On the contrary, many International pacts and recommendations by relevant non-governmental organizations have always campaigned for the disabled minorities to be efficiently included in the mainstream educational processes. The Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education (CSIE) (2004a) goes ahead to list ten of the fundamental reasons why disabled learners ought to be included in the classroom learning activities; firstly, it is asserted that it is the right of every child learner to be trained together with the others and not in isolation; segregating, excluding or discriminating against a child simply because they have a certain learning difficulty is both immoral and unethical. The process of growing up necessitates that children be together so as to enjoy the benefits and advantages that come with interacting and sharing information with one’s peers; as a matter of fact, many disabled adults who went through separated systems of learning claim that it is a very devaluing practice and that it should be abolished to allow the disabled children inclusion into normal learning processes.
The ongoing campaigns in many nations for the disabled minorities to be included in the normalized educational processes have also been propelled by research findings which assert that when placed in inclusive contexts, children have a propensity towards more favorable attainment of social and scholarly goals. Putting the disabled learners in segregated learning institutions is therefore a form of prejudice that makes them feel unloved and unwanted by society; in the long run, these feelings of inadequacy tend to have very detrimental effects on the disabled children’s learning. In order for such feelings to be dispelled and for the disabled children to forge healthy relationships with the others, both at school and the society in general, there is a need for them to be provided with an inclusive system of learning which is sensitive to their special needs while at the same time allowing them the normalcy of interacting with other learners.

There are a variety of issues that are inherent to the field of academics and vocational training; one such issue concerns the dynamics involved in the access and equity of occupational education, common referred to as VET in Australia. Despite the fact that the activities of the commonwealth government towards the entrance into and impartiality of Vocational Education and Training have been showed discrepancies in the past years, there are some issues that a very closely affected by the federal political administration as well as the state administrations. Firstly, there have been divergent positions by government officials in the policy formulation processes regarding the advancement of entrance and partiality in VET. The two positions are the management of diversity model and the social justice model; while the management of diversity model is mostly concerned with structural frontiers that hinder marginalized groups from accessing VET, the social justice model aims at the disambiguation of personal characteristics and mindset that hinder individuals from accessing the full benefits of VET. According to Considine and Watson (2005), the political system in Australia has been guided by the principles of the social justice approach when it comes to the formulation of policies and intervention initiatives affecting VET. In the mid of the 20th century the Australian National Training Authority came up with a list of the most underrepresented groups in the VET framework. These included, women, physically challenged individuals, individuals descended from non-English speaking communities, the rural folk as well as the aboriginals and Torres Straight Islanders.
3142VTA Inclusive Teaching Assignment 2 (n.d) asserts that in order for a teacher to understand the needs of the learners there are two concepts that are very fundamental. The first one is language and the function that it plays in the educational process. The language of learners is closely linked to their culture and diverse backgrounds which make them unique. The interactions between learner and teacher must be guided by a healthy relationship in which both communicate clearly; any breakdowns in the communication process may adversely affect the process of educational inclusion. Another very important concept is that of multiple perspectives. The disabled learners may have different outlooks to life and the educational process in contrast to the normal learners; in addition to this, the learning process is one in which there is the application and utilization of a myriad of understandings and outlooks. Due to the amalgamation of different types of learners in an inclusive classroom, the teacher has the responsibility of coming up with teaching-learning methodologies that are effective.
According to Rieser (2001) an investigation was conducted in Northern England which exposed adults from different backgrounds such as those in incarceration, the physically challenged, the unemployed and young single mothers to a premeditated curriculum based on local concerns and needs. The tutors chosen to dispense the curriculum were those who had a social standing closely related to that of the chosen respondents. After a twenty four month conduction of 50 interviews and 12 focus groups, based on the respondents life occurrences and outlooks on the significance of classroom learning, it was discovered that most of the respondents attached a great significance to the student –teacher relationship; a majority of them revealed that learning would be more successful in circumstances where they felt appreciated and their individuality and experienced valued. In such an environment, the respondents revealed that they would feel more motivated to include themselves in the classroom educational process. The research study also depicted that more than half of the respondents were pleased by the manner in which the learning process allowed for a diverse range of learning capabilities; they were motivated by the fact that they could operate at their own individual speeds.
There are a variety of initiatives and frameworks that can be applied in the processes aimed at the impartial inclusion of the marginalized groups into the VET system. Considine and Watson (2005) assert that in Australia the first framework has been the Federation of Independent Aboriginal Education Providers. This organization, whose main activities are conducted in Sydney, Alice Springs and Adelaide, has been very instrumental in the redress of exclusion of minority groups from VET as a consequence of both structural and personal traits barriers. In their capacity to lessen the frontiers that hinder minority groups from accessing VET, the policies of Federation of Independent Aboriginal Education Providers have also been very successful in reducing levels of illiteracy, domestic violence, abuse and misuse of substances as well as incarceration and medical issues.
According to Darlington (2003) the issue of inclusion is a very fundamental one in any educational process. For any teacher to be able to effectively execute the principles of inclusion they first of all have to appreciate the fact that each learner is a unique individual with unique needs and outlooks; the teacher should therefore shed off any labels of physical infirmity, social background, religious affiliations or economic status that may interfere with the inclusion process. The fundamental step in the application of feasible inclusive strategies is the fact that the teacher should be willing and dedicated to the process of including the disabled learners into the learning procedures. The formulation of successful and effective inclusion models necessitates a generous investment of time, exertion and extra resources. There are a variety of teaching methodologies and guidelines that the teacher ought to be sensitive of in the process of educational inclusion.
Rieser (2001) declares that the first strategy for teachers is that they should not emphasize or focus on the learner’s physical challenges but on their particular strengths and capabilities. This approach allows the educators to identify authentic learner needs rather than basing their teaching framework on label-defined hearsays. According to 3142EBL -Assignment 2 (n.d) an important aspect of effective inclusion process in the Australian setting is the utilization of effective communication strategies. This is due to the diverse nature of learners in the Australian educational sector. To be able to do this successfully, the teachers and their learners should meet before the onset of classroom learning. This allows for the learners to receive the relevant knowledge as well as orientation on services available for the disabled, counseling services as well as the teacher contacts and classroom lesson timetables. In the classroom situation signposting is a very effective method as it allows for learner to be aware, in advance, of the educational content that they will be exposed to during each lesson; this strategy, coupled with the equipping of learners with relevant educational hand outs and DVDS or auditory CDs is also very effective in the implementation of educational inclusion.
Inclusion is a process that can not achieve the set intents without the formation of healthy relationships. As a consequence, the parents of the disabled child have to work collaboratively with the school administration to ensure that the child is fully accepted by the school fraternity and included in the learning processes. A teacher has a very important role to play when it comes to the implementation of processes aimed at learner inclusion. There are a variety of teaching practices that the teacher may utilize in their attempt to incorporate and include all learners in the educational process. According to McKenzie (1999) the first very feasible strategy is that of scaffolding; this refers to the kind of instruction where the teacher makes the structure of the educational content presented to the learners very clear as well as plainly depicting what the anticipated outcomes of the learning process are. There are certain features of scaffolding that make it very effective in the process of educational inclusion. Firstly, scaffolding is very effective in the provision of unambiguous instruction to learners. This is due to the fact that the content being learnt has previously been assessed and any difficulties that the learners may encounter in the educational process already redressed. The learners also learn to cultivate the habits of speed and clarity in all their educational endeavors.
In addition to this, Holton and Clarke (2006) assert that scaffolding has proven to have the necessary aptitude in explaining the relevance of educational content to learners; this is very significant in the inclusion process since it allows the teacher to capture and maintain the learners’ interest. It has been proven severally by a myriad of educational studies and investigations that once the relevance of educational content is made clear to learners and the learners have a picture of how the content affects their lives during and after the schooling process, they tend to be more alert and interested to learn. The educational process becomes a focused and deliberate activity rather than just an information gathering process. Moreover, scaffolding also allows for an evaluative course of action to make sure that the learners have been fully included in the educational process. This is due to the fact that scaffolding provides the learners with past models of work done by other learners and thus the teacher is able to make clear to the learners what the anticipated standards of educational quality are. As a consequence, therefore, scaffolding is very effective in enabling the teacher to guide learners in the utilization of credible academic sources and references.
However, as stated by 3142VTA Inclusive Teaching Assignment 2 (n.d), the provision of scaffolding should not be left to the teacher alone; there should also be a participation and contribution from the learners through the process of group work or learning in twos. Working in pairs or teams is effective in bringing about scaffolding due to the fact that the learners are different in individuality and outlook; working together therefore gives each learner an opportunity to inject their unique skills and knowledge into the effective and successful accomplishment of whatever academic task they are involved in. By bringing together their divergent capabilities and sets of information, the learners will alternatively play both the roles of teacher and learner and in doing so work collaboratively with the teacher towards making inclusion education a success. Knight et al (2004) assert that a teacher should make efforts towards the establishment of a warm and sociable classroom atmosphere so as to encourage learners to communicate easily and willingly engage in the process of educational inclusion.
Preece (2001) asserts that the teacher may also decide to utilize the instruction method whose inclination is towards the revival and revitalization of knowledge that is effective in the distinguishing of optional and oppositional elements in the learning process. As stated by Considine and Watson (2005), such a teaching methodology is very effective in the acknowledgement and redress of individual attributes as well as past personal experiences that may affect the process of educational inclusion. When the teacher strengthens the personal attributes of their learners, the learners independently develop the capacity to self-include themselves in the learning process. Despite criticisms that this method of teaching is more theoretical than practical, many of the contemporary teaching methodologies actually apply it successfully and commonly refer to it as ‘student-centered learning’.
According to The City University of New York and National Center on Educational Restructuring and Inclusion (1995), there are a variety of advantages and benefits that occur as a consequence of using inclusive strategies in academic instruction. Firstly the process of inclusive learning is very effective in assisting the learners to cultivate the virtues of patience and respect for other members of the society; the normal learners also cultivate the virtues of understanding and kindness to the disabled ones who may need their assistance from time to time. According to Shaddock et al (2007), there are a variety of strategies that teacher have at their disposal to aid them in the process of including minority learners in the educational process. A research study was conducted on twenty very effective teachers from Australia to investigate how they go about the process of learner inclusion into educational processes. An interesting fact that was discovered is the fact that the teachers revealed that they perceive all of their learners- not just the physically disabled- as having particular individual needs that have to be met.
In future studies, investigations and applications of strategies of educational inclusion, the relevant policy makers ought to analyze the contemporary set up and circumstances surrounding many educational institutes and how this may affect the effective implementation of inclusive learning. Apart from making sure that progressive and updated teaching methodologies and curricular is applied in inclusive learning, the policy makers should ascertain that teachers are provided with the necessary resources and support that they need to implement and execute fresh initiatives in the field of inclusive learning.
Conclusively, inclusion in the educational field refers to the processes that are aimed at incorporating minority groups in society, specifically the physically challenged, in the educational process. An inclusive model of education is therefore, that which is able to eradicate all barriers and frontiers to learning and in doing so ascertain that classically excluded and marginalized learners are satisfactorily included at all stages of learning. It is very clear that there exists an intimate association between the teaching methodologies, curriculum content and the set of procedure established for the purposes of including learners in the educational process. For the process of educational inclusion to be successful in bringing forth the required outcome, it is important that the relevant educational officials engage the targeted minority groups in deliberation and dialogue forums in which both parties can air their opinions about the democratization of educational knowledge choice and control.
Shaddock et al (2007) state that the inclusion of learners with disabilities to the education process is not a new occurrence and neither is it restricted to Australia. Many International pacts and recommendations by relevant non-governmental organizations have severally campaigned for the disabled minorities to be efficiently included in the mainstream educational processes. Teachers have to be willing and devoted to successfully include all their learners in the education process. Apart from allowing them the right to interact and associate with other children, inclusive learning allows the disabled learners to compete on fair ground with the other learners and in doing so be proud of their achievements, both at school and in the outside world thereafter.


Bibliography
Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education (CSIE) (2004a): ‘Ten Reasons for Inclusion’ retrieved
 Considine, G. and Watson, I. (2005): ‘Who’s Missing Out? Access and Equity in Vocational
Educational and Training’ A National Vocational Education and Training research and Evaluation Program report
Darlington, C. (2003) ‘The challenges of effective inclusion’, Times Educational Supplement, 19
September
Holton, D., & Clarke, D. (2006): ‘Scaffolding and Metacognition’ International Journal of
Mathematical Education in Science and Technology, 37(2), 127–143
Knight, B.A., Graham, L., and Hughes, D. (2004): ‘Facilitating positive Social Interactions for
Children with Learning Disabilities, Knight, B.A. and Scott, W., Learning Difficulties:
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McKenzie, J. (1999): ‘Scaffolding for Success’ From Now On: The Educational Journal,
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Preece, J. (2001): ‘Challenging the Discourse of Inclusion and Exclusion with Off Limits
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Rieser, R. (2001) ‘The Struggle For Inclusion: The Growth Of A Movement’ in
BARTON, L. (ed.) Disability, Politics and Struggle for Change, London, David
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Shaddock, A., Giorcelli, L. and Smith, S. (2007): ‘Students with Disabilities in Mainstream
Classrooms: A Resource for Teachers’ Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR)
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Inclusion (1995): ‘National Study of Inclusive Education’ New York: Author
3142VTA Inclusive Teaching Assignment 2 (n.d): ‘Creating an Inclusive, Student-Centered
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3142EBL -Assignment 2 (n.d): ‘Creating an Inclusive, Student Centered Learning Environment’