Thursday, July 28, 2011

What is Inclusion?

The course that I will be taking for my Masters program this fall is "Curriculum Studies and Classroom Practices".  Our major areas of study are going to include Universal Design for Learning (UDL), Differentiated Instruction (DI) and Assessment.  We will be looking at all of these concepts through two lenses:
  • How does the practice support "inclusion"?
  • How does the practice relate to Neurology?
I'm really looking forward to the course but I'm still finding that we have yet to come up with a solid definition of "inclusion".  It seems we are talking and talking about it but there are different definitions everywhere and I'm not completely convinced on which one works the best.

Alberta Education defines an "inclusive education system" as
"a way of thinking and acting that demonstrates universal acceptance of, and belonging for, all students. Inclusive education in Alberta means a value based approach to accepting responsibility for all students. It also means that all students will have equitable opportunity to be included in the typical learning environment or program of choice."
It is a "lovely" definition but doesn't leave me with much in regard to understanding what "inclusion" actually is or how we go about moving along a continuum to a more inclusive education system.

A few months back I stumbled upon a definition that I really like because it speaks to many aspects of "inclusion" and also addresses the students that I'm currently teaching...
"Inclusive education is characterized by presumed competence, authentic membership, full participation, reciprocal social relationships, and learning to high standards by all students with disabilities in age-appropriate general education classrooms with supports provided to students and teachers to enable them to be successful."  (Institute on Disability (2009). Brief highlights of research on inclusive education. Presented at the Inclusive Education Leadership Summit. April 10, 2009. Durham, NH: Institute on Disability, University of New Hampshire)
I like it but I sometimes look at it and think that it isn't big enough.  I truly believe that inclusion is not just about students with disabilities and as time goes on I'm starting to think it's not just about students even. I wonder at times if we just took out the phrase "students with disabilities in age-appropriate general education classrooms" from the above definition if it would create the definition of inclusion that I "feel in my gut". To me inclusion is about acceptance, belonging, support, learning for everyone involved in a school (students, teachers, parents, support staff, administration) so it would cover that part of it.

The parts that a bit too implied in this definition (as they are not missing but they are also not front and center) are related to the concepts of community and collaboration as I think those are part of the base that inclusion sits on.

In the end, I do not yet feel I have a solid definition for inclusion but it is always worth putting down some thoughts to get a little closer.

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